Kerala Catholic bishops back Modi

T K Devasia (Reporting from Trivandrum)
Filed on June 4, 2014

Catholic bishops in Kerala who kept Narendra Modi at a distance before the elections have extended full support to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government headed by him.

Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) president and Syro Malankara Church Major Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis made the approach of the Church towards the new government clear on the opening day of the four-day monsoon session of the council at Cochin on Monday.

The conference being attended by 35 bishops belonging to three Catholic rites-Latin, Malankara and Syro Malabar — will be discussing about 20 issues related to the Church and the society.

Cleemis, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), promised cooperation of the Church in all pro-people measures being initiated by Modi, the Prime Minister. He said that he was hopeful that the new government will lead the nation on the path of development.

Cleemis did not share the concern Catholics nursed about the Hindutva forces led by Modi on the occasion. He and his colleagues had rejected invitations from Modi for a meeting during his visit to the state a couple of months before the elections. Modi had invited heads of all major Christian denominations as part of his bid to build bridge with the Christians, who forms about 19 per cent of the population in Kerala.

Only two bishops of the Orthodox Church had responded to the BJP call. One of the two bishops was in fact from Modi’s home turf of Ahmedabad. The head of the Church had early praised Modi’s developmental initiatives in Gujarat. Modi had invited Ahmedabad Orthodox Bishop Geevarghese Mar Yulios for his swearing-in-ceremony.

The KCBC, which is a permanent association of the Catholic bishops in the state, was apparently apprehensive about the secular credentials of Modi. The body had reminded the faithful about threats posed by communal elements in its pre-election circulars.

It had appealed to the faithful to vote for persons committed to secular traditions and protect the interests and well being of the minority communities.

The circular drafted by Cleemis said that votes should be given to persons committed to protecting secularism and capable of ensuring the safety and security of linguistic and religious minorities as well as treating all religions on an equal footing.

However, many bishops softened their stand towards Modi saying that he will not go against the Constitution, which has several provisions to protect the minorities. Quilon Diocese Bishop Stanley Roman there was nothing for the minorities to fear as they are an integral part of India.

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