Bishops’ event urges to beat divisive politics

Speeches given as Christians and Muslims are subjected to further harassment and violence from Hindu hardliners.

(Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com) New Delhi:

A Catholic Church-organized program in New Delhi has called on Indian politicians to cease being divisive and using religion as a way of attracting votes.

Prominent opposition leader Mamta Banerjee was among several speakers voicing concerns over the divisions in Indian society during an assembly organized by the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference on July 31.

“Some people are trying to divide the country in the name of religion, caste and creed. But we can’t sit here as mute spectators,” Banerjee, chief of Trinamool (grassroots) Congress party, told the gathering of 1,000 people.

“Time has come for us unite and raise our voices,” she said.

With the theme of “Love your neighbor,” the assembly was held as leaders of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) press their pro-Hindu ideology ahead of general elections early next year.

Banerjee, who is also the chief minister of West Bengal state, said the theme of the gathering was rightly chosen because “some communal forces are trying to dictate what we should eat, dress and how we should practice our faith.”

She was alluding to cases of harassment and violence committed against Christians and Muslims by hard-line Hindu groups ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power leading the BJP in 2014.

Leaders like Banerjee accuse BJP governments in New Delhi and most northern Indian states of supporting Hindu groups who attack religious minorities in an effort to project the party as a pro-Hindu champion.

Banerjee said some governments were targeting Christian organizations with an agenda of tarnishing the Catholic Church and missioners. She said the recent order to investigate some Christian organizations including the Missionaries of Charity, which St. Mother Teresa founded in her state’s capital city of Kolkata, was one such move.

“These missionaries and the church in general have been doing much service and no one can deny that and the best example was our own Mother Teresa who worked tirelessly for poor people,” she said.

Father Joseph Manipadam, secretary of the India bishops’ office for education, told ucanews.com that the assembly was held to promote discussion over the challenges the nation faces. “We wanted to give the message that Christianity does not promote hatred but always speak of love and brotherhood,” he said.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, told ucanews.com that it organized the assembly because “a negative atmosphere of hate and violence exists in the country … we wanted to stress a positive approach.”

He and several other leaders at the assembly called on politicians to stop using religion for votes and criticized their negative stances toward minorities such as Dalits and tribal people.

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta, the chairman of the Indian bishops’ conference office for education and culture, said: “Any attempt to polarize and divide people should be discouraged and condemned.”

Supreme Court lawyer Franklin Caesar said that even six decades after Indian independence Christians of Dalit origin “are still struggling to get social security rights” that their counterparts in the Hindu religion enjoy.

Christian and Muslim Dalits are excluded from social concessions that could uplift their social status — such as for employment and educational quotas — on grounds that their religions do not recognize the caste system.

India has some 27 million Christians and at least 60 percent of them come from Dalit or indigenous backgrounds who struggle socially and economically.

Source: UCAN

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Jharkhand ‘treats Christians as terrorists’

Church efforts to protect tribal lands are viewed as a major reason for official hostility.

(File Photo)

Bhopal: All nine Catholic bishops of India’s northeastern Jharkhand state have sought federal intervention to stop Christians being treated like terrorists as part of alleged state government harassment.

The bishops told governor Draupadi Murmu, who is the representative of the Indian president, that the state government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had used its Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to probe Christian institutions.

On July 30, three days after meeting Murmu, they also sent a memorandum to federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking his assistance on the issue.

“We are now treated as terrorists and officials of the ATS are after us as if we are involved in terrorist activities,” Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi, who organized the meeting, told ucanews.com.

He said for the past few months, police had been arresting church people on trumped-up charges and investigators had raided Christian groups in “clear state-sponsored harassment.”

In some cases, the ATS served notices on Christian institutions ordering them to produce financial details within 24-hours, the bishop said.

State police spokesperson R. K. Mallick termed the claims of the Christian leaders as “absurd”.

The inquiries were being conducted on orders of the federal home ministry to investigate 88 Christian non-governmental agencies in the state, he told media representatives.

The head of the ATS and the head of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) is the same person.

“Notices may have been issued by him on ATS letterhead, but it is the CID that is inquiring,” Mallick said.

The federal order for investigations came following allegations from the state government and influential Hindus groups that Christian institutions were diverting funds for the purpose of securing religious conversions in violation of a state law.

It was also claimed that funds were being used to support the Pathalgadi tribal movement that seeks greater autonomy from both the federal and state governments.

Christians had been targeted for their faith and faced violent attacks, false accusations and arbitrary actions by various government functionaries, said the memorandum to the federal home minister.

Indian Bishops’ Conference secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas has shared a copy of the memorandum and confirmed it was mailed to the federal home minister.

These institutions, working for the poor, receive foreign funding through banks in compliance with India’s Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act and submit their audit reports annually to federal officials as well as filing income tax returns regularly, the memorandum said.

It was surprising that a criminal investigation had been launched even though the federal government had verified all the accounts and renewed permissions to receive funding, it added.

Bishop Mascarenhas said it was alarming that several non-governmental agencies receive foreign funding, but only Christians are being investigated.

The government is unleashing violence against those who follow a different ideology, which is not good for our country,” he told ucanews.com.

Christian leaders say the state government supports the ideology of Hindu groups working to make India a nation of Hindu hegemony.

Jharkhand has close to one million Christians, almost all of them tribal people, in a population of 32 million.

Church leaders believe that the government was angered over Christian leaders playing a crucial role in forcing withdrawal of an attempt to amend two state laws that protect tribal land.

Source: UCAN

Mother Teresa nuns explain Ranchi incident

The nuns “are open to any free, fair and just inquiry,” Sister Prema said in a July 17 press release.

Kolkata: The superior of the Missionaries of Charity congregation, Sister Prema, has explained the events leading to the arrest of a nun on charges of baby selling in Ranchi, and expressed “full trust” in the process of law.

The nuns “are open to any free, fair and just inquiry,” she said in a July 17 press release.

“We have full faith in the courts of law and the investigating authorities and are confident that justice shall prevail,” the release said.

Here is the full text of the Press Release.

PRESS RELEASE ON THE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AT NIRMAL HIRDAY, MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY HOME AT EAST JAIL RAOD, RANCHI

(Missionaries of Charity Mother House, Kolkata- July 17, 2018)

We are deeply saddened and grieved by the recent developments at Missionaries of Charity Home – Nirmal Hriday at East Jail Road, Ranchi’ Even while we place our full trust in the judicial process that is underway, we wish to express regret and sorrow for what happened and desire to express in unequivocal terms our condemnation of individual actions which have nothing to do with the congregation of the Missionaries of charity.

we are fully cooperating with the investigations and are open to any free, fair and just inquiry. In this context, specially in view of the many myths being spread, information distorted and false news being diffused and baseless innuendos being thrown about regarding the Mother Teresa Sisters, it is expedient to lay down the the turn events as hey actually transpired.

Sr. Concelia MC (the arrested nun) was appointed as the sister-in-charge of the ‘unwed mothers’ section at Nirmal Hriday. East Jail Road. Ranchi on June 06, 201’1′ She was responsible for admission, hospitalization. Counselling, record keeping, accompanying mothers and babies to CWC’ when necessary and for discharge of the unwed mothers from the Home.

Mrs. Anima Indwar (the staff member arrested) began working at Nirmal Hriday from January 2012. Initially, she worked as as a ward helper and then as a staff member to care for the unwed mothers. She learnt the work very well and ably assisted Sr. Concelia MC. Mrs. Anima Indwar thus, came to enjoy the trust of the Sisters at Nirmal Hriday. As and when Sr. Concelia MC got engaged in pressing responsibilities, Mrs. Anima Indwar would escort the unwed mothers, their babies and their guardians to Sadar Hospital, RIMS and CWC Office as and when required, by herself.

On June 29.2018, at around 12.30 pm, the child Protection officer Ms. Seema and other Social Welfare officers about five of them came to Nirmal Hriday. They called for the admission and attendance registers containing information about the inmates at the Home. They seized the registers and records maintained by Nirmal Hriday without providing the receipt for such seizure to the Home.

From the records maintained for unwed mothers, the said officials particularly enquired about Ms. Karishma Toppo and her baby. Mrs. Karishma Toppo had taken admission in Nirmal Hriday on March 19, 2018 and had delivered her baby on May 01,2018. After her delivery. Ms. Karishma Toppo had declared in the Home’s register that she would surrender her child to CWC. Mrs. Anima Indwar, Ms. Karishma Toppo and her guardian thus took the baby from Nirmal Hriday to surrender the child. Neither Nirmal Hriday nor the Sisters had any way to ascertain whether the child was actually surrendered to CWC. This is because CWC as matter of practice did not give any acknowledgment to the Home after obtaining the custody of a child from an unwed mother.

On July 03, 2018, Mrs. Anima Indwar when summoned by CWC admitted that Ms. Karishma Toppo’s child was not surrendered to CWC. Upon such admission, she was handed over to the police by CWC. Mrs. Karishma Toppo’s child too was surrendered to CWC by Mrs. Anima Indwar and Ms. Karishma Toppo on the same day.

On July 4, 2018, Sr. Concelia MC and and Sr. Marie Deanne MC, Superior of Nirmal Hriday were also questioned by the police. Sr. Concelia was arrested by the police while Sr. Marie Deanne MC after being kept in police custody till 7 PM the next day was finally let off.

On the evening of July 04. 2018 CWC along with Child Protection Officer. Ms. Seema without serving any notice to Nirmal Hriday. carried away the 11 unwed mothers, one unwed mother along with her baby and one guardian from the home. The said women were subjected to utmost humiliation and public embarrassment by the officials as they were carried in f1ll view of the media.

For reasons unknown, our Sishu Bhawan Home at Hinoo was raided by CWC with a police force consisting about 7 members on July 06, 2018. 22 children lodged in the said Home were carried away by CWC, which included a one month old baby. One such baby took very ill in the custody of CWC and was admitted in the ICU at Rani Hospital. The records and registers of this Home too were carried away by the officials without providing the Home a receipt of such seizure. It is distressing that CWC has meted out such treatment to a Home, which its officials themselves had described as having an “excellent environment for the care of children” only about two weeks before.

The Missionaries of Charity, following the footsteps of our foundress St. Mother Teresa is caring for the poor, destitute and the afflicted since 1950. Today. there are 5,167 sisters, both active and contemplative, with 760 houses in 139 countries. The Missionaries of Charity have 244 houses in India including those in Jharkhand.

Our works include running homes for leprosy patients, TB patients, AIDS patients, physically and mentally challenged children and adults, night shelters, indoor primary health care facilities, homes for women in distress, girls in danger, abandoned pregnant women, for women whom poverty and starvation have driven into the streets.

The Congregation of Missionaries of Charity vows to continue their whole-hearted and free service to the poorest of the poor by serving the needy and vulnerable even in the middle of the unprecedented and unfounded criticism that it faces today. We have full faith in the courts of law and the investigating authorities and are confident that justice shall prevail.
We pray for all those who have been hurt by the recent developments and we ask God to bless all those who are standing by us in these painful and difficult moments, and we lift up to God in prayer all people of goodwill.

May our Mother, St. Teresa of Calcutta intercede for us before our Almighty Father.
.
Sr. M. Prema MC
Superior General

Courtesy: UCAN

Vatican gets tough with Indian archdiocese, in Land Scandal….

Vatican gets tough with Ernakulam archdiocese
Three prelates removed from administration of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese as apostolic administrator is appointed.

Kochi: In an unprecedented move, the Vatican has bypassed the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church’s decision-making synod and taken away the administrative jobs of three prelates of an archdiocese beset with financial controversy and infighting.

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat as the apostolic administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese on June 22 with a mandate to stem financial controversies aggravated by disputed land deals.

“There remains the grave and worrying” situation of division between priests, auxiliary bishops and Cardinal George Alencherry, said a letter from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Oriental Congregation.

It said the administrator’s primary job is to seek “healing of these fractures and eventually propose solutions that require the intervention of the Synod of Bishops,” the supreme decision-making body of the Syro-Malabar Church based in Kerala.

The archdiocese was embroiled in a controversy in November 2017 when the presbyteral council, the canonical body of priests, publicly accused Cardinal Alencherry, the major archbishop, of being part of dubious land deals.

The priest-representatives told media that the cardinal, two senior priests and a real estate agent had sold several plots of land at undervalued prices, incurring a loss of more than US$10 million. They also accused the cardinal of bypassing the canonical body.

The letter from Cardinal Sandri said the administrative powers of auxiliary bishops Sebastian Adayantrath and Jose Puthernveetil have been suspended. The letter also suspended all archdiocesan offices and its council, giving the new administrator the freedom to reshape them or constitute new ones.

The letter asked the new administrator to conduct an audit of the archdiocese by an independent agency and send the result to only the Apostolic See in a confidential manner.

It said Cardinal Alencherry “should absolutely not be involved” in any decisions. However, the administrator may appoint a synodal committee to help him, but it should have only a consultative role.

The new administrator is also mandated to ascertain the responsibility of people “who have wounded church unity with unfounded allegations, lacking the spirit of obedience and ecclesial sense,” which resulted in a “public scandal damaging the Syro-Malabar Church.”

It is first time in the history of this Asian Church that the Vatican has suspended the administrative powers of all the bishops in a diocese, said a senior priest who asked to remain anonymous.

“It shows a grave situation of ethical violations and the inability of the synod to effectively settle the issue,” he said.

The situation forced the Vatican to bypass the synod that became self-governing in 1992, he noted.

Call for reconciliation

The apostolic administrator has appointed a new vicar-general, financial officer, chancellor and pro-vice-chancellor in the archdiocese. He also issued a circular sending a message of reconciliation to Catholics, which was read out in all parishes on June 24.

The allegations of financial irregularities have sullied the reputation of the archdiocese. “We will be able to rebuild this if everybody cooperates,” it said.

Cardinal Alencherry refused to comment on the developments. However, his supporters do not see the Vatican intervention as a setback for him.

Santhimon Jacob, a vocal supporter of the cardinal, claimed the Vatican move does not mean anything as the cardinal had already delegated his administrative powers to the two auxiliary bishops in the wake of the land controversy.

He also noted the assertion in Cardinal Sandri’s letter that the Vatican move comes at the recommendation of the cardinal and the synod.

The cardinal’s critics, however, feel that an impartial investigation into the land deals could even lead to his exit from his current positions.

Father Kuriakose Mundadan, former secretary of the presbyteral council and a member of the six-member committee that probed the land deals, said the Vatican has given clear instructions to get to the bottom of the issue.

“The instruction to have an independent audit and to send its report only to the Vatican shows that they want to know the truth. We are confident that Pope Francis will side only with the truth,” Father Mundadan told ucanews.com.

He said he and other priests are not worried about disciplinary action. “We have been raising the issue in the internal forums of the church since September 2017. None, including the members of the synod, gave us any convincing explanation or moved to act.”

Father Mundadan said they were forced to speak in public because of inaction. He said the Vatican intervention comes after the priests’ body made two representations to the Vatican.

Bishop Manathodath, 71, who was ordained a priest in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese in 1972, will continue as bishop of Palghat while having the additional responsibilities of administrator.

Source: UCAN

Constitution in danger, human rights trampled: Goa Archbishop

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao urged lay Catholics to play an active part in politics.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao Panaji:

The Indian Constitution is in danger, Goa’s Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao has said, adding that a “new trend” of mono-culturalism, which demands uniformity in what and how one eats, dresses, lives and even worships, is putting human rights at risk.

In the latest annual pastoral letter to Catholics in Goa, Ferrao also exhorted agencies of the Church in Goa to actively participate in social movements and urged lay Catholics to play an active part in politics.

“At the time of elections, the candidates confuse the minds of many people by making false promises. And the people, on their part, often sell their precious vote for selfish, petty gain.

“Today, our Constitution is in danger, (it is a) reason why most of the people live in insecurity,” Ferrao said in his pastoral letter for 2018-19 which was formally released on Sunday but circulated only on Monday.

“In this context, particularly as the general elections are fast approaching, we must strive to know our Constitution better and work harder to protect it.”

In the letter, which comes two weeks after Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto warned about an emerging threat to India’s “democratic and secular fabric”, Ferrao also alleged that human rights were being trampled in the name of development and mono-culturalism.

“In recent times, we see a new trend emerging in our country, which demands uniformity in what and how we ear, dress, live and even worship: a kind of mono-culturalism. Human rights are under attack and democracy appears to be in peril.

“The various minorities fear for their safety. In short, respect for law is frankly on the decline in this country,” said Ferrao, who is the spiritual and religious leader of Catholics in Goa who account for 26 per cent of the state’s population of 1.5 million.

“People are being uprooted from their land and homes in the name of development. Pope Francis says that ‘the first victim of development is the poor person’. It is easier to trample upon the rights of the poor, because those who will raise their voice for them are very few.”

Calling for the participation of Catholics and Church communities in politics and social movements, Ferrao said such involvement was “vital” to the creation of a just community.

“Our parishes and small Christian communities ought to be immersed in this mission of the Church. They should be open to the problems of the world… this social concern should not only remain within the confines of the parish community but should reach out to the whole state and country at large,” Ferrao said in the letter.

“It is advisable that the lay faithful play an active role in the political field; they should, however, follow the dictates of their conscience while doing so and shun ‘sycophantic’ politics. They should thus strengthen democracy and, on the other hand, help to improve the functioning of the state administration.”

IANS

Courtesy: UCANews

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