Christian movement appeals to new papal nuncio to India to name Dalit bishop

The Dalit Christian Liberation Movement said the appointment of Dalit bishops would prevent an "imminent uprising”

A group of Dalit Christians called on the new papal nuncio to India, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, to take steps to appoint bishops from the Dalit community in dioceses in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.

In a letter addressed to the nuncio, the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement said the appointment of Dalit bishops would “restore confidence in Dalit Catholics” and “prevent their imminent uprising.”

The letter, which was quoted for news site Matters India, also called for a review in the process of appointing bishops, archbishops and cardinals in India.

The Dalit group said it was forced to write the “open letter” after several messages and emails to the nunciature were not even acknowledged.

The group said the silence forces them to doubt whether the communications were brought to the nuncio’s attention.

“We expected the new nuncio to understand the situation carefully with concern and take early steps to appoint a Dalit archbishop,” read the letter signed by the group’s president M Mary John.

The letter said the appointment of a non-Dalit bishop within two days of the nuncio’s arrival has brought “great disappointment and shock” to Dalit Catholics.

Indian Catholics attend Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad, on March 6, 2019. Dalit Christians make up 75 percent of India’s total Christian population. (Photo by Noah Seelam/AFP)

Catholics in India’s Tamil Nadu state have earlier expressed dismay over the appointment of a new bishop, who is non-Dalit, in the predominantly Dalit diocese of Salem.

Pope Francis named Father Arulselvam Rayappan, 60, from the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, as the new bishop of Salem in Tamil Nadu.

Ordained priest in 1986, Father Rayappan has a doctorate degree in Canon Law from Urbaniana University in Rome and led the Pontifical Institute of St. Peter in Bangalore.

From 2010 to 2018, he served as the secretary of the Commission for Canon Law and Legislative Texts of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

Jesuit priest A. X. J. Bosco, told AsiaNews in an earlier interview that the appointment of a non-Dalit as bishop of a Dalit diocese “is a clear injustice.”

“Since 2004, eight bishops have been appointed and a candidate from this majority group has never been chosen,” he said.

Dalit Christians are “low-caste” persons in India who have converted to Christianity from Hinduism or Islam and are still categorized as Dalits in Hindu, Christian and Islamic societies. An estimated 42 percent of Indian Christians are Dalits. – with a Matters India report

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