Local Catholics threaten to block archbishop’s consecration

Dalit Catholics protest

The Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) has threatened that Dalit Catholics will protest and not allow the consecration of the non-Dalit archbishop to take place.

Dalit Christians in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu have condemned the appointment of a non-Dalit as the archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore Archdiocese.

The appointment of Bishop Francis Kalist from Meerut in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh as the new metropolitan archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore was announced on March 19.

Mary John, president of the DCLM, told UCA News: “The Church’s hierarchy has taken the rare step to transfer a bishop from north India to an archdiocese in the south. This is only to prevent the appointment of a Dalit archbishop.”

In a state where Dalits represent the vast majority of the population, only one out of 18 dioceses in Tamil Nadu has a Dalit bishop.

The archdiocese had become vacant when Archbishop Antony Anandarayar resigned on January 27, 2021, after reaching the age of 75. He died on May 4, 2021 due to Covid-19.

For three years, Dalit Christians have been demanding the appointment of a Dalit as archbishop. All previous four archbishops of Pondicherry-Cuddalore were non-Dalits, John said.

“It turns out that the fifth one appointed now is also a non-Dalit. This is deeply hurting and insulting for Dalit Catholics as well as derogatory to their faith,” John said.

“The DCLM has repeatedly accused the Catholic hierarchy in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry and at the national level of “completely ignoring the plight and plea of Dalit Christians suffering obnoxious caste discrimination within the Catholic Church.

“The Church’s hierarchy accepted the truth behind our demand. However, behind the scenes, it took a calculated and cunning decision to deceive Dalit Christians,” John said.

He called the latest decision of appointing Bishop Kalist as “a stab in the back of the Dalit faithful”.

“It is an act of cowardice to use their ecclesiastic authority against the oppressed people. When they know full well that what they are asking is just and fair.”

Dalit comprise 75 per cent of Catholics in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. Approximately 60 percent of India’s 25 million Christians are believed to be of Dalit and tribal origin.


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