Ahead of his visit to West Bengal to meet the nun who was gang-raped last week, the head of the Catholic Church in India, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, on Tuesday said: “The country has a responsibility towards all of us — every human being — and not just cows.” The nun belongs to the Convent of Jesus & Mary.
The priority should be to protect citizens of the country, Cardinal Cleemis told reporters, lamenting that instead of citizenship “we are now speaking more about religiosity.”
'Attacks on minorities ‘disfigure’ secular fabric'
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, on Tuesday said not just the minorities but even a majority of the Hindus were worried about the “disfiguring of the country’s secular fabric,” he added, “Ours is a culture, more than a country with room for all [beliefs] including the right not to believe.”
Cardinal Cleemis was speaking to reporters ahead of his visit to West Bengal following the brutal sexual assault on a seventy-year-old nun in the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in Ranaghat.
Both he and Cardinal Oswald Gracias – a member of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals – maintained that they were not rushing to conclude that the attack on the convent in Ranaghat was a hate crime but said the rape of the nun and the desecration of the chapel raised questions about the motive.
“It has caused anxiety within the community. Such attacks are bad for India’s image globally and bad for the economy,” said Cardinal Gracias.
At the office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) , Cardinal Cleemis articulated the community’s anguish over the fact that no responsible person in the government was specifically telling prominent leaders to stop making offensive comments.
Without naming anyone in particular but referring to the statement of a BJP office-bearer that “God resides only in temples; not churches and mosques,” the CBCI president wondered: “I am not a legal expert, but is this not structural violence, is this not constitutional violence?’’
To the government’s counter in Parliament that it cannot be held responsible for every act of violence in any State or every comment made by someone of prominence, Cardinal Cleemis said: “We all know that the Prime Minister cannot control all of them or stop it, but when such irresponsible comments are made with increasing frequency, should there not be a mechanism to tell such people to stop hurting the sentiments of people.”