National

Pope in South Asia, but no invite from India

Pope Francis delivers a blessing at St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican.  

Despite repeated requests from the Catholic Christian community, the government has not shown any interest in welcoming Pope Francis to India during his tour to South Asia which begins on Sunday, a senior official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said.

Speaking to The Hindu the official said the Vatican under Pope Francis has helped India in securing the recent release of Catholic priest, Father Tom from the insurgents in Yemen and therefore it would have been befitting to host him in India during the trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

“We have been in contact with the government and have conveyed our request at the highest level to invite Pope Francis to India, but we have not received any positive response so far,” said a senior CBCI official, who informed that the government is aware of the deep desire of the Catholics to host the Pope in India.

Pope Francis who arrives in Myanmar on Sunday is likely to take up the issue of the Rohingya refugees with Nobel laureate State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi during his stay in the country. “As I prepare to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, I wish to send a message of greeting and friendship to everyone. I can’t wait to meet you,” he said, in a social media message during the weekend.

The statement from the Catholic Church in India came days after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) indicated that such an important visit needs to be finalised through a ‘proper mechanism.’

“India’s link with Christianity is nearly 2,000 years old. Indian Christians have immensely contributed to India’s growth and prosperity. Relations between India and the Holy See have always been cordial and strengthened over the years,” said spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on November 23. The MEA did not wish to comment on the statement of the CBCI official.

Though the Pope will not be able to visit India this time, several leading Indian Catholic clergymen and personalities will be present in Myanmar and Bangladesh to welcome him. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Cardinal Placidus Toppo, and Bishop Lumen Monteiro of the Diocese of Agartala will meet the Pope. A few other clergymen from West Bengal are also likely to meet Pope Francis in Dhaka.

Senior Catholic sources indicate that the lack of government support to welcome Pope Francis to India has not dampened their spirit and in fact the CBCI is trying to get a new slot to invite Pope Francis.

“We are continuing with our backchannel talks and are confident that with the support of the government we can welcome Pope Francis in India by the middle of 2018,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of the CBCI.

Apart from being the spiritual leader of the Catholics, the Pope is also the head of a state and that is why there is a need to have full protocol support of the government, he said and added, “We also need at least seven to eight months to prepare for such a visit.”

The visit of the Pope is likely to be a major point in the upcoming Plenary of Bishops that will be held in January in Bengaluru.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 9:55:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-silent-on-church-plea-to-invite-pope/article20944714.ece

Next Story