CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 26 May 2018

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Don’t sideline constitution Indian cardinal says

BANGALORE (CNS): “Poverty is the mortal sin of modern times. It is the biggest terrorism and evil that needs to be fought by the Church,” said Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar. He was delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the 33rd general body meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) that began in Bengaluru on February 2 on the theme, United in diversity for a mission of mercy and witness.
 
Earlier, speaking to the press ahead of the biennial assembly of the bishops’ conference, Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, the president of the conference said, “The country is facing different challenges, like making sure the constitution is really kept [observed] in the life of the citizens. Constitutional guarantees should not be blocked from any corner.” 
 
Cardinal Cleemis, who is the major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, said Dalit Christians were being denied the same rights as Hindus and other Dalits. 
 
Dalit means trampled upon or broken open in Sanskrit and denotes people formerly known as untouchables in India’s multi-tiered caste system. 
 
“Religion should not be used to deny equal rights,” said the Cardinal. The government introduced free education and a quota in government jobs for Hindu Dalits in 1956 to improve their social status. 
 
While the same statutory rights were later extended to Buddhist and Sikh Dalits, successive governments have rejected the demand for equal rights for Christian Dalits.
 
When asked about a central minister who urged that the constitution be amended to have people identified by religion, the cardinal cautioned, “People in responsible positions should not sideline the sacredness of the constitution.” 
 
The cardinal pointed to a pre-Christmas attack on Catholic carol singers in the Diocese of Satna and threats against a Catholic college in Vidisha in the Diocese of Sagar as examples of violations of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.
 
Similarly, he criticised the controversial decisions by the Modi government to observe Good Governance Day on Christmas and Digital India Day on Good Friday 2017. “Any other date could have been fixed to launch such programmes,” the cardinal said. “Why should you hurt the feelings of a community?”
 
The meeting, which concluded on February 9, was attended by 204 bishops and 64 bishops emeritus from 174 eparchies. 
 
India is the fourth largest bishops’ conference in the world and the largest in Asia. 

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