Vatican City (Fides Service) – “In Tamil Nadu the Church is dynamic and vibrant. We have about 3.2 million Catholics in the state and we are present with various social institutions, schools, hospitals and orphanages. People have great respect for the Catholic Church Chiesa and our work is appreciated by other Christians and by Hindus”. Archbishop James Arul Das of Madras-Mylapore gave this outline of the situation in Tamil Nadu speaking to Fides in Rome where he and other Bishops of the southern Indian state Tamil Nadu are making the five yearly ad limina visit to pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and report to the Pope on the joys and troubles of their local Churches.
Archbishop Arul Das said that overcoming difficulties “the Catholic church has built good relations with followers of other religions who often take part in services, especially those in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and on major Christian holidays”.
The Archbishop said that one of the problems for the Church in Tamil Nadu, is that, like in other states of India “the local government introduced a law requiring that conversions obtain approval of local government officials and this is causing fear among the people at the spiritual level. Nevertheless – he says – many still do come asking to join the Church and we ask them to sign a declaration that they wish to become Catholics and then we send the declaration to the local authorities for registration”.
Archbishop Arul Das says spreading religious fundamentalism is a threat: “Hindu fundamentalist movements in India seem to be ever stronger and this could make life difficult for the Christians. But although a minority we are ready to face this danger strong in our faith. During our ad limina visit we will ask the Pope for his blessing and we will assure him of our unity with him”.
At the social level the Archbishop says in Tamil Nadu there is a yawning economic gap between the rich 20% and the poor 80%: “This is why the Church is committed to assisting the poor. We offer free education and health care to as many as possible and try to meet the basic needs of the poorest of the poor”. The Church in India is also committed to eliminating the prejudicial caste system “as Christians we believe that all people are equal whatever their language, caste or religion and that we are all children of God. ”. (PA) (Fides Service 12/11/2003 lines 38 words 398)
INFO:THE LOCAL CATHOLIC CHURCH IN TAMIL NADU
Madras (Fides Service ) – The southern Indian state of Tami Nadu is the seventh largest in size and has a population of 63 million mostly Tamil speaking Hindus. With regard to the organisation of the local Catholic Church, Tamil Nadu comprises three provinces and a total of 16 dioceses served by 3 archbishops 13 bishops and 2 auxiliaries. Tamil Nadu has the largest community of Latin Rite Catholics in India, 3.2 million, but it is the second largest community after Kerala where Catholics follow the Syro-Malabar Rite.
In her service of education the Catholic Church runs 1,074 elementary schools, 495 middle schools, 554 secondary schools, 15 university colleges, 36 professional training schools, 20 Teachers Training Colleges. (PA) (Fides Service 12/11/2003 lines 13 words 150)