Catholic clergy ‘anxious’ about intolerance in India

Panaji: Religious intolerance is a very real phenomenon in north India, senior Catholic clergy in India said on Monday, but noted that after the overwhelming loss in Delhi assembly elections in 2015, the Hindu right wing fringe had become “more tolerant”.

Addressing a press conference at a church-run centre near here, ahead of the three-day Conference of Diocesan Priests of India, the event’s patron Bishop Udumala Bala also said that incidents of intolerance were making Catholics in the country “anxious”.

“Here and there strange incidents are there, especially in north India, we are anxious about it,” said Bala, a part of the influential Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, when asked to comment on how the Church views the issue of religious intolerance in the country.

Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bala also said that sometime back, a series of intolerant incidents, which included cabinet ministers making communally insensitive comments, had failed to yield the ruling party dividends in the Delhi assembly polls, especially after a show of protest by Catholics, including archbishops in Bengaluru.

“We knew they were going to lose, but we never thought they were going to lose so badly and then I think they have learnt a lesson from that. They are more tolerant after that,” Bala said.

The aim of the Conference of Diocesan Priests of India, in which 275 priests from across India are expected to participate in, is aimed at helping participants foster an expert understanding of their priesthood and encourage collegiality amongst the priests of the order, which runs several premier educational institutes in the country.

The theme of the conference is ‘Priest as a minister of God mirrored in the person of Pope Francis’.

Speaking to reporters at the press conference, the event’s vice president Father John Crasta, who is posted in Ranchi, said that from time to time, prayer meetings are disputed and prayer halls have been attacked in the capital of Jharkhand.

“But wherever it is necessary we are raising our voice, but in a peaceful manner. But it (intolerance) is a real issue and a real concern in north India, where intolerance is affecting each one of us,” he said.