The demand for a Dalit Rite in the Catholic Church in India was reiterated at a conference of theologians, biblical scholars, and canon law experts from the community.
“While Dalit Christians struggle politically for their rights and space, it is essential to discern and reflect theologically, biblically, canonically, liturgically and ecclesiastically for an Indian Dalit Rite that alone will help those in hierarchy and all domains, to understand, recognize and accept the aspirations, history and culture of Dalits as a distinct community, the majority in the Church,” said Rev. Vincent Manoharan, a theologian, at the April 28-29 conference at St. Thomas International Centre, Chennai.
Caste is a stark reality and caste-based discrimination is rampant in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, parishes and institutions, he noted, adding that Dalits are totally neglected in the Church despite the Dalit Empowerment Policy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
The bishops issued the policy on Dec. 13, 2016, acknowledging that “caste discrimination is a grave social sin.” The Church leaders committed to ensure that the practice of untouchability will not be tolerated within the Church.
Father Cosmon Arockiaraj, one of the organizers of the conference, called for “a new Pentecost” for the Dalit Christians.
“We have a new mission to take the idea to the clergy and the people for our own Church, religiosity and spirituality. We definitely need to face the misinterpretations and misunderstandings of this demand by the vested interests,” he said.
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