ASIA/INDIA - Catholic Bishops meet Prime Minister: Church/State cooperation to build tolerance and social harmony in India

Thursday, 1 July 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - The Catholic Bishops of India appreciate the programme of the government and assure collaboration on the part of the Catholic Church to achieve new and productive social policies: this was said by Archbishop Telesphore Toppo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India comprising Bishops of three rites, Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar on June 26 during a meeting with India’s new Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the leader of Congress Party Hon. Sonia Gandhi. The delegation of Bishops included Mgr Percival Fernandez, secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference, Father Donald De Souza Vice Secretary and Father Babu Joseph, spokesman.
The political leaders thanked the delegation of Bishops for the enormous contribution to society offered by India’s Catholic community in the fields of education and social services, especially for social categories to whom not much attention is given by other organisations, namely the sick, the poor and the excluded. “This has earned Christianity a distinctive identity in this country ”, the Prime Minister said confirming his own commitment to build social harmony and economic progress for the benefit of all citizens. The Prime Minister assured the Bishops that his government “would make episodes of violence against Christians a thing of the past”.
Singh, after his appointment, indicated as priorities for his government the promotion of social harmony, fight against fundamentalism, improve living conditions in rural areas, create equal opportunities for education and work for Dalits.
For their part the Bishops promised to sustain the political leaders with their prayers voicing appreciation for the leaders’ sincere effort to take India to new heights of progress and prosperity in a spirit of authentic religious freedom which means respect for diversity and peaceful co-existence in diversity. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 1/7/2004 lines 31 words 308)