Photo – Catholic Christians stage a protest in front of the Apostolic Nunciature of the Vatican in New Delhi on Monday.THE HINDU
Kudanthaiarasan Kudan wrote to Church Citizens' Voice:
"I am a Dalit Catholic from Kumbakkonam Diocese, Tamil Nadu, India- Please help us to reinstate/ordain a Dalit Seminarian as Priest (who was expelled from the Seminary mere for caste discrimination)- Please help us to eradicate untouchability practice in the Indian Catholic Church- In the leadership Dalit are poorly represented- Please go through the Memorandum and forward it to the concerned Church Authorities for further Action- If you feel reality is there in our request."
THE HINDU Reported
Dalit Catholics petition Vatican against ‘discrimination’
Several Tamil Catholic organisations staged a protest here on Monday against the alleged discrimination against Dalits in the Catholic Church.
The police escorted the protesters into the Vatican Embassy to hand over a memorandum to Ambassador Salvatore Pennachio, who is also the Apostolic Nuncio in India and Nepal.
Speaking to The Hindu , Kudanthai Arasan of the Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi, who led the protest, said they were forced to appeal to the Vatican as the grievances of the Dalit Christians had not been redressed by the church.
“They continue to face segregation in cemeteries and are grossly underrepresented in the clergy. We gave a 16-point memorandum to the Nuncio, demanding that the Catholics who practise untouchability be excommunicated; Dalits make up 80 per cent of the clergy; and the Catholics be compelled to drop caste names,” he said.
Lawyer Franklin Caesar Thomas, who organised the protest, said what provoked the protest was the expulsion of Dalit youth G. Michael Raja from a seminary in Tiruchi in 2011.
Since then, several clashes had occurred in southern Tamil Nadu and services had been discontinued in a few churches in Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga districts.
“The Vatican chooses to remain indifferent to caste discrimination, and this agitation will continue until the problem is resolved,” he said.
Matters India Reported
New Delhi: Dalit Catholic organizations from Tamil Nadu Monday submitted a16-point memorandum to the Pope’s representative in India, demanding end to caste discrimination within the Church and appointment of their people to key posts.
“Excommunicate the people who practices untouchability,” demanded the memorandum from the Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi (Tamil Tigers Liberation Party), a Kumbakonam-based group that led several Dalit groups to stage a protest in New Delhi against alleged discrimination against Dalits in the Catholic Church.
The police escorted the protesters into the nunciature at Niti Marg in Chanakyapuri area to hand over the memorandum to Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio.
The group said Dalit Christians have faced discrimination because of untouchability for centuries. “They are so tired of this treatment and of the corruption of the Good News of Jesus Christ by the Indian Church that they are not willing to tolerate it anymore. They are fighting for their human rights and to reclaim their dignity and rightful place in the Church and society,” said a press release the group issued before meeting the nuncio.
The group said they were protesting against the nuncio, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its social action wing, Caritas India, and the Conference of Religious India, the national association of religious major superiors in the country.
The released signed by Kudanthai Arasan condemned the Church groups for their failure to eradicate rampant untouchability, practice of caste discrimination inside the Church and among its members.
After meeting the nuncio in the morning, the group gathered at Jantar Mantar, a downtown venue for protest meeting close to the Indian parliament house, to press for their demands.
The group alleged that caste still dominated the selection of bishops and those in authority in the Church. “Morally good Dalit Christians” are not selected for such posts. “Dalit Christians are purposefully prevented to become bishops and leaders of the Church,” the press release alleged.
It also accused the Church of not using its financial resources for the development of Dalit Christians, despite collecting funds in the name of those people.
The group demanded social and economic auditing of the Church resources to assess how they are being spent for the benefit of Dalit Christians, who it claimed formed 80 percent of Catholics in India.
Majority of Dalit Catholics have not become “wholesome” even several centuries after the India received the good news of love, justice and brotherhood of Jesus, the press release said.
The group listed various discriminatory practices within the Church that its leaders said violated the Indian Constitution. It noted existence of caste-based cemetery, festivals, church car procession and parishes. Other forms of ill-treatment include calling Dalits by derogatory caste names, and mistreating Dalit priests and nuns in churches and convents.
Caste Christians prevent Dalits from performing spiritual duties because of the untouchability. In some parishes dead bodies of Dalits are not allowed inside the church for funeral Mass, and marriage processions are not permitted in the common road in caste-Christian streets.
It accused Caritas India of spending millions rupees in the name of the poor Dalits. According to Caritas website it has contributed significantly to nation building by supporting 22,945 projects to tune of 13.73 billion rupees.
“We are sorry to say that the Caritas India has not done projects for the development of Dalit Christians who are majority in the Indian Catholic Church. If they disagree can they give the report of the activities done for the development of the Dalit Christians? Have they done anything for the empowerment of these Dalit Christians really?”
The Dalit group also alleged that high caste people occupy all key posts in Caritas India and these people act against the welfare of the Dalit Christians because of their discriminatory caste mind set, it added.
Their demand to the nuncio included immediate abolition of all forms of untouchability in the churches throughout India and excommunicate practitioners of untouchability.
They also want to treat the practice of caste discrimination in the Church as schism and sin and take appropriate steps to eradicate untouchability. “Declaring theoretical statements to cheat others and the victims (Dalit Christians) are not enough,” the group asserted.
Another demand was appointment of Dalits as cardinals, archbishops and bishops. “Give 80 percent representation to Dalit Christians in the Church leadership.”
The protestors also wanted Dalits representation in all national centers, organizations, participatory structures and institutions (including the finance handling power) under the Church.
The group alleged Dalit priest and nuns are given powerless posts such as hostel warden, garden in- charge, cooking in-charge, housekeeping in- charge while reserving powerful and money handling posts to dominant caste groups.