With the office of bishops in five Catholic dioceses and one arch-diocese going vacant in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Dalit Christian bodies have reiterated their demand for appointing Dalits to the posts to ensure their equitable representation in the Catholic hierarchy.
At a virtual meeting on Wednesday with the president of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council and Archbishop of Madurai Antony Pappusamy, the bodies pointed out the lack of representation of Dalits in the hierarchy, particularly among bishops. M. Mary John, president, Dalit Christian Liberation Movement, said though Dalits constituted more than 50% of the Catholic population in T.N. and Puducherry, only one of the 18 dioceses of the Latin Catholic rite in Chennai had a Dalit as bishop.
Arguing that the first appointment of a Dalit as bishop happened only in 1993, to the Vellore diocese after considerable pressure from Dalit Christian movements, he said three more were appointed and one was elevated as Archbishop in the next 12 years.
“However, even this marginal progress towards equitable representation has been reversed in the last 15 years as there has not been even a single Dalit among at least eight bishops and archbishops appointed during the period,” he said.
He said the situation was similar across the country. “Though Dalits are a majority among the Catholic community throughout India, only 11 of the roughly 170 bishops are Dalits,” he said. The organisations demanded that Dalits be appointed to all five vacancies in the State and Puducherry. Urging the president of TNBC to take necessary action, they appealed to him to take up the issue with the Apostolic Nunciature to India and the See of Rome.
“We are only asking for the implementation of what has been said in the Catholic church’s Dalits-related policies,” he added.
DCLM, National Council Of Dalit Christians, National Dalit Christian Watch, Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi and the Christian People’s Forum were among those who took part in the meeting.