Home News Catholics in India’s Tamil Nadu state protest appointment of non-Dalit bishop

Catholics in India’s Tamil Nadu state protest appointment of non-Dalit bishop

Dalit groups have been appealing to Catholic Church leaders to appoint a Dalit archbishop, even meeting with the apostolic nuncio to India early this year

Catholics in India’s Tamil Nadu state are protesting the appointment of a new bishop, who is non-Dalit, in the predominantly Dalit Ecclesiastical province of Pondicherry-Cuddalore.

Bishop Francis Kalist of Meerut City in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has been appointed new metropolitan archbishop of the province, to the dismay of Dalit Catholics, on March 19.

For months, Dalit groups have been appealing to Catholic Church leaders to appoint a Dalit archbishop, even meeting with the apostolic nuncio to India early this year.




Local Catholic priest AXJ Bosco said the appointment of the new bishop “seems to be a vile plot of the villainous casteist elements in the Church.”

“What an irony,” said M. Mary John, president of the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement, adding that the “great injustice and act of betrayal” come during the Lenten season “when we are reminded of how Jesus suffered death on the cross for the liberation, equality, and rights of the oppressed and marginalized people.”

John said the if the appointment is not revoked, “then we will be forced to raise the issue of casteism, practice of untouchability, and discrimination against Dalit Christians by the Church in appointments of bishops with the Indian government.”

‘We will also protest in public to appeal to Pope Francis to stop appointing bishops in India till the local hierarchy takes steps to appoint Dalit archbishops and bishops in adequate numbers,” he said.

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“We are planning a strong campaign,” said Dr. G. Mathew, convenor of the Tamil Nadu Dalit Christian Coalition. “There would be mass protests,” he said, adding that they have already started on social media.

“We are also planning to stop his installation by all lawful means. We will not take this lying down,” he said.

Vallabadas Vallarasu, president of another Dalit group, Makkal Mempattu Munnani, said they “will not allow [the new bishop] to enter the bishop’s house.”

“We will protest in all parishes of the archdiocese, staging hunger strikes, wearing black badges and waving black flags,” he said.

“We just wont allow him to take charge of our predominantly Dalit archdiocese,” added Vallarasu.

The groups noted that for the last 15 years, not a single Dalit bishop has been appointed in the state where 70 percent of Catholics are Dalits.

Dalit Christians are “low-caste” persons in India who have converted to Christianity from Hinduism and are still categorized as Dalits in Hindu and Christian societies. An estimated 42 percent of Indian Christians are Dalits.

Archbishop-designate Francis Kalist was born onNov. 23, 1957, in Ratapuram in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district.

He was ordained priest on Dec. 30, 1982, and was appointed Bishop of Meerut at the age of 51. His Episcopal ordination was held in February 2009.

He is currently the chairman of the CCBI Commission for Women and the Episcopal Advisor of the National Charismatic Service Team.

The 64-year-old prelate is also Patron Bishop of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and Missionaries of Mary Immaculate congregations.

The Archdiocese of Pondicherry, which used to be the Karnatic Mission (Pondicherry), was established in 1776. In 1836 it became the Vicariate Apostolic of Pondicherry. It was elevated to Archdiocese of Pondicherry in 1886 and the name was changed into Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore in 1953.

There are 3,99,461 Catholic faithful, 105 parishes, 187 diocesan clergy, 84 religious priests, 1,035 religious sisters and 311 educational institutions in the archdiocese, according to the latest census.

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