Papal visit: Cardinals meet Prime Minister
By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: Heads of India’s three ritual Churches on February 7 met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss papal visit and other issues related to the Christian community in the country.
Cardinals Oswald Gracias, George Alencherry and Baselios Cleemis requested the premier to take immediate steps for the release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, says a press release from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
The 58-year old Indian priest was kidnapped on March 4, 2016, by Islamic militants from a home for elderly in Aden, Yemen.
Cardinal Cleemis, Archbishop of Trivandrum, is the CBCI president and head of the Syro-Malankara Church. Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, is the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ of India, the national body of Latin rite prelates in the country, while Cardinal Alencherry, Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, heads the Syro-Malabar Church.
The CBCI press release says the prime minister has assured the team that the government would take necessary and immediate steps to free Father Uzhunnalil. He also informed the cardinals that the government holds a favorable attitude toward the visit of Pope Francis to India.
The team has assured the premier that Christian Churches will continue their support for the integral growth of the nation, the press release adds.
The Pope has expressed his desire to visit India and Bangladesh in the second half this year.
India’s new apostolic nuncio Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro is expected to arrive in New Delhi on February 16, sources say. Church sources expect the Pope to visit India in November.
The cardinals met the prime minister weeks after a video appeared on social media during Christmas time that showed a bearded and tired man claiming to be Father Uzhunnalil. He appealed to the Indian government as well as Pope Francis to secure his release. He also alleged that no one had contacted his captors until then.
The video had prompted Cardinal Cleemis to call for prayers for the priest in all parishes and Church institutions in the country.
The meeting with the premier took place a day after a section of Catholics in the national capital held a prayer and sit-in to press the federal government to intensify its efforts to free Father Uzhunnalil. The program was attended by all parliamentarians from Kerala, Father Uzhunnalil’s native state. The lawmakers alleged certain neglect on the part of the government in the matter.