India: the new nuncio invited to appoint Dalit prelates
Dalit Catholics in Tamil Nadu state in southern India have urged India’s new papal nuncio to appoint Dalit prelates to fill vacancies in the state.
“The demand for Dalit bishops in the state has intensified after the recent appointment of a non-Dalit bishop in Salem by the Vatican,” Mary John, president of the Liberation Movement, told UCA News Dalit Christians (DCLM).
Acting on behalf of several Dalit Christian organizations, John wrote to Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli urging him to consider appointing a Dalit Archbishop in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore and Dalit Bishops in the Dioceses of Kuzhithurai, Sivagangai, Tiruchirappalli and Vellore.
The letter was copied to the Catholic Bishops‘ Conference of India, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Bishops, members of the Board of Bishops of Tamil Nadu and diplomatic missions in India countries affected by human rights violations.
John’s letter of June 11 called for a review of the traditional process for appointing bishops, archbishops and cardinals in India to make it inclusive and truly representative of Dalit Catholics.
“We call for the immediate appointment of a Dalit Archbishop and Dalit Bishops to the vacant positions in order to restore confidence in the Dalit Catholics and prevent their impending uprising in Tamil Nadu as well as in other states of India,” said his letter.
We have also constantly made representations to the Vatican, including the Pope
“We expected the new nuncio to carefully understand the situation with concern and take the first steps to appoint a Dalit Archbishop in Pondicherry-Cuddalore and Dalit Bishops in the vacant dioceses, which have been on hold for months and years.
“But much to the disappointment and shock of Dalit Catholics, you announced the appointment of a non-Dalit bishop in the Diocese of Salem within two days of taking office in India.”
DCLM has raised this issue over the past three decades with numerous letters and appeals to the Indian Catholic hierarchy and nuncios.
“We have also consistently made representations to the Vatican, including to the Pope. We have participated in public demonstrations to show our agony and anger, in the hope of sensitizing the Catholic Church to caste injustice, ”the letter added.
“We organized more concerted public demonstrations and street rallies because we realized that our silence, our pious hope and our calls to prayer for decades and centuries have only defeated or buried our righteousness.”
The letter warned that Dalits are prepared to take legal action because India’s constitution abolished untouchability and caste discrimination against Dalits.
Dalits are the lowest caste in Hindu society. Large numbers of Dalits have converted to Christianity and Islam over the decades, although religions offer limited protection against societal prejudices.
The word Dalit means ‘trampled’ in Sanskrit and refers to all groups once considered untouchable and outside the Hindu four-tier caste system. Government data shows that 201 million of India’s 1.2 billion people belong to this socially disadvantaged group. Some 60 percent of India’s 25 million Christians are of Dalit or tribal descent.