Matters India |Tuesday, October 24, 2017
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Modi to host Pope Francis 

New Delhi: Pope Francis may come on a tour to India by the end of this year or early next year – almost two decades after New Delhi witnessed such a papal visit.

New Delhi and Vatican are in touch to schedule the visit of Pope Francis to India. Efforts are on to find a suitable set of dates towards the end of this year, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hectic schedule – both for visits to foreign nations and for receiving visiting foreign leaders – is coming in the way.

If the visit cannot be scheduled this year, New Delhi and Vatican will look for an alternative set of dates sometime in early 2018.

“We are still hopeful that the visit (by Pope Francis to India) will take place at least early next year, if not earlier,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told the Deccan Herald.

Pope John Paul II was the last pontiff to visit India. He visited as many as 14 cities across the length and breadth of India during his 10-day tour in February 1986. He again visited India in November 1999, but his itinerary then was limited to New Delhi only. His successor Pope Benedict XVI gave India a miss during his eight-year-long papacy.

The Christians constitute the third largest religious group in India, with about 28 million population. The first few months of Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister saw the Bharatiya Janata Party Government being criticized for incidents of attacks on churches and “Ghar Wapsi campaigns” by Sangh Parivar offshoots to re-convert people allegedly forced or lured to embrace to Christianity.

The BJP Government’s move to restrict the flow of foreign funds to some non-profit organisations, including Compassion International and other Christian NGOs, operating in India also drew criticism – not only within the country but also from outside, like the US Government.

Vatican and New Delhi have been discussing a possibility of a visit by Pope Francis – the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church – to India since early 2016. India has the second largest Catholic population in Asia after the Philippines.

The efforts to schedule the visit got momentum after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Pope Francis during her visit to Vatican for canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa in September 2016. The pontiff, himself, hinted about his plan to visit India and Bangladesh while speaking to journalists in October 2016.

What, however, made it impossible to find a set of dates for the visit of Pope Francis – the sovereign of the State of Vatican City – in the first half of 2017 was the busy schedule of Prime Minister, who, along with President of India, had to host him.

Modi was busy not only for campaigning in assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and four other States but also for foreign visits to Sri Lanka, Russia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Spain, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Israel. The Prime Minister is also likely to visit China and Philippines later this year.

He is also likely to host leaders of Jordan, Japan, Israel, France and Canada during the coming months. Sources, however, told the DH that efforts were still on to schedule the papal visit towards the end of the year.

A source aware of the discussion between New Delhi and Vatican said that while Government of India was keen to host Pope Francis, it was also mindful of the fact that a papal visit must be arranged in such a way that the dignity of the pontiff was duly maintained. If a suitable date could not be found this year, the visit would be scheduled sometime in early 2018, he added.

Apart from New Delhi, Pope Francis’ itinerary may also include Kolkata, Mumbai and a few other cities, depending on the number of days he would spend in India, said another source.

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9 Responses to Modi to host Pope Francis

  1. Cletus Zuzarte

    Good News! I hope this signals better treatment of Catholics in India

     
  2. Winfred. Dsouza

    Welcome to India, Mumbai. Mangalore dear Pope Francis. Will pray for successful visit

     
  3. Aaris

    Does is help him to get Christian vote in 2019 and cover-up all the things happening after BJP took over !!

     
  4. Agnel Mascarenhas

    Hallelujah……………..Great news, Lord Jesus Christ bless Holy Father Pope Francis in his visit to India.

     
  5. Christopher

    Welcome Papa

     
  6. jude joseph

    WELCOME TO INDIA HOLY FATHER

     
  7. chhotebhai

    When Pope John Paul visited India in 1986 I received communion from his hands and then knelt down to kiss his feet. But when he came again in 1999 I was appalled by his statement that the third millennium was for the evangelisation of Asia.He said this on Indian soil as a guest of the Indian State. It took years to live down that one indiscreet statement.

    I have always objected to the Pope being accorded the protocol of a Head of State.He doesn’t get that status in the USA. He should come as a pastor to visit his people. If at all there is to be a meeting with the President or PM it should just be a courtesy call.And no armed guard of honour please. It is a counter witness.

     
  8. Achachan

    Pope and Modi can easily become friends.
    The occasional write up about Pope’s visit may help people patiently wait.

     
  9. A. S. Mathew

    Pope’s visit to India will be a boosting experience to the whole christian community. He will be visiting UAE before the end of this year.

    While UAE is giving all the freedom for the expatriate Christian community, and those leaders with vision and the spirit of high religious tolerance are showing their genuine heart through inviting Pope Francis to that country. Their relationship with the Christian nations of the world in business-tourism etc are expanding rapidly.

    But in India, the Christians are not expatriates; they are born and brought up in the Indian social with a long tradition of 2000 years. They are the 3rd largest religious population of India, and they are being targeted like a torturing object by the radical and jobless followers of the RSS/BJP/VHP etc while the rulers sitting at New Delhi and watching the show with humor. If PM Modi won’t make laws to protect the minorities in India, especially the Christian minority, then the official visit of Pope Francis through the involvement of the RSS Government is merely a con game to impress the world that India is still purely secular.

     
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