The Catholics Bishop Conference of India (CBCI), the largest umbrella group of Catholic denominations in the country, has expressed its displeasure in being portrayed as a co-host of a seminar in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the chief guest.
The seminar, ‘National Seminar of Religious Witnessing’, will be held in the capital on February 17 to celebrate the elevation to sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia. The CBCI is understood to have conveyed its displeasure to Syro-Malabar church authorities, the organisers of the event.
Father Joseph Chinnayan, spokesman of CBCI, said, “We are not organising or being consulted for this event. Whoever is participating is doing so in their individual capacity.”
Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara (Delhi-Faridabad diocese), Syro-Malabar church, said, “It is true they are not hosting this. They were involved in the beginning, but not now. I can assure you it is not because of picking the PM as the chief guest…”
The capital has witnessed a series of attacks on churches since December, the latest being the attack on Holy Child Auxiliam in Vasant Vihar on Friday. This, combined with ‘ghar-wapsi’ drives by Hindu groups, has caused unease in the Christian community.
The CBCI, in an unusual move, issued a three-page pastoral letter on January 27, outlining the areas of concern and the “need for an assurance from the government that we are protected and secure and safe in our motherland”.
Sources said Modi was approached by Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha P J Kurien during the Winter session of Parliament and persuaded to be part of the celebrations.
Asked if he was worried about the PM’s silence on church attacks, the Archbishop said, “After the attack on the school, he spoke to the Police Commissioner. We hope the police will act now.”