Cardinal Gracias urges Modi to invite Pope to India

The cardinal had a one-to-one meeting with Prime Minister Modi

By Jose Kavi

New Delhi: The head of the Catholic Church in India on March 20 urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to invite Pope Francis to visit the country.

“The prime minister reacted positively to this desire of the whole Catholic community,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), told media persons after his meeting with Modi.

The cardinal, one of the eight top advisors of Pope Francis, was elected the CBCI president, during the biennial plenary of the conference in early February at Bengaluru. This was his first meeting with the prime minister in his new capacity.

Cardinal Gracias described the meeting was “open, cordial and frank” and it helped the two leaders to know each other better.

The cardinal had a one-to-one session with the prime minister, said Monsignor Joseph Chinnayyan, CBCI deputy secretary general, who accompanied the cardinal. “This was the first time a Church leader has such meeting with the prime minister. Normally, we meet the prime minister or the president in groups,” he added.

The cardinal, who is also the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, told the prime minister that Pope Francis is “acclaimed worldwide and appreciated by people of all beliefs.”

The Pope’s visit will bring long term benefits to the country, the cardinal said. “The Pope is much loved in India. He will pray with the people and give message of hope and love,” he added.

The prime minister promised to find a suitable time slot for the pope’s visit as scores of world leaders plan to visit India this year.

Pope Francis had expressed his desire to visit India several times last year. He repeated it in March when a minister from Kerala called on the Pope.

Cardinal Gracias also brought to the prime minister’s attention the growing anxiety among Christians over “sporadic attacks on minority institutions and personnel in different parts of the country.”

The cardinal told the premier that a strong message from him that such acts of violence will harm the country will help not only allay the fears of the affected community but discourage “misguided people from creating mischiefs.”

“We are small community but our contribution to nation building is between 15 to 20 percent,” the cardinal repeated what he told the preminer.

The cardinal quoted Modi as saying that he was the prime minister of all Indian and that he wants to be inclusive. “The prime minister wants to reach out to all people and his priority is the welfare of the people and eradication of poverty,” the Church leader said.

The prime minister also asked the cardinal to meet him whenever he wants and that his doors are always open for him.

Asked about the ongoing controversy over sale of Church land in a Syro-Malabar archdiocese in Kerala, Cardinal Gracias said the CBCI cannot interfere in the matter as it concerns with a Church with self-governing power. “However, I have met Cardinal George Alencherry and offered any help he required,” said the cardinal who also heads the national conference of Latin rite bishops in the country.

The Catholic Church in India comprises three self-government rites – Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro Malankara that have separate bishops’ conference and administrative bodies.

The CBCI only deals with national and matters outside the ritual Churches.

The land sale case is currently in the High Court of Kerala. A group of priests in Ernakulam-Angamaly blame Cardinal Alencherry of selling properties that huge financial loss to their archdiocese.

Cardinal Gracias said Rome has taken up the matter. “We would like the Syro-Malabar Church and Rome to resolve the matter.”

The cardinal said he would not welcome a government law to administer Church property and institutions. “Canon law has sufficient provisions for the transparent administration of Church property. A new law would only lead to interference and manipulation by vested interests,” he clarified.

Cardinal Gracias, however, said as an Indian citizen he is subject to the laws of the country. Canon law, he added, deals mainly with faith and morals.

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9 thoughts on “Cardinal Gracias urges Modi to invite Pope to India

  1. Whatever is the case : India an epicentre of religious controversial country or politically most appropriate country? Let the world judge for itself when the heads of two meet.

  2. Historically mighty India is known to welcome people of all faiths, cultures, and continents. Wishing the Holy Father a spiritually uplifting visit and stay in our land of sages and saints. Bon Voyage.

  3. Thank you Chotebhai ji for your frank piece of advice. Can a political head of a country travel in another country in (only as a ) religious head? Prime Minister ji is too clever and would surely use the occasion for his benefit. Maybe like-minded people should sit with Cardinal who is a down-to-earth person and brainstorm? Let’s hope that God will guide us thru…

  4. I agree with the views expressed by Chhotebhai. Pope is regarded by all the Catholics as their religious head. But Bishops and the Pope himself seem to give priority to his position as Emperor of the Vatican State. Is the Pope a political leader or a spiritual leader? We as patriotic Indian citizens are not interested in the emperor Pope.

  5. I fail to understand why we have to go to the government with a beggar’s bowl. I also strongly object to the Pope being invited as a State guest. Even the USA doesn’t give him that status. He should come as a religious head, not a political one.

    Pope john Paul II’s last visit and his appeal for the conversion of Asia was an unmitigated disaster.

    Also knowing Modi for what he is, he could easily convert the event into a PR exercise for himself.

    Why can’t our hierarchy take the laity into confidence in matters of national interest? We are far more competent in “worldly” matters

    1. Pope Francis is the head of the Vatican City with less than 900 people in population. On the other hand, he is the head of the largest Christian denomination of 1.25 billion believers. Since he is the head of a tiny country, he must be invited as a State Guest, not as the head of the religious denomination. His recent visit to Bangaladesh-Myanmar and Sri. Lanka was official visit. Pope Francis was officially invited by the U.S. Government in 2015, not as the head of the Catholic Church. He was landed as the head of a nation at Washingon, welcomed by the U.S. President and all other powerful people and the Church leaders. While he was sent off, the Vice President and his wife were present. The American Airlines gave the aircraft to take him straight to Rome. I have never seen a welcome given to any other head of the State. He has spoken at the U.S. Congress at that time. Being the head of the 1.25 billion people, he is treated with greater respect than any other President or Prime Minister in the world.

  6. Well, now PM Modi is caught up in a test of trust. As he has stated, how many world leaders in the schedule to visit India this year?

    Glad that the Cardinal has brought the attention of Modi about the anxiety created by his Government among the Christians, that minority which has contributed 15-20% to the nation.
    Perhaps PM Modi is not aware of the fact that Pope Francis is the head of the 1.25 billion people. Though I am eternal optimist, I am feeling pessimism with this issue.

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