Cardinal Cleemis applauds Indian Hindus’ openness

June 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Philadelphia, June 28, 2016: One reason Christianity took hold in India and continues to grow there is because of the majority Hindus’ openness, says the head of the Catholic Church in the country.

“The Hindu community in general is so loving and welcoming — all good values in human life. When Christianity came to India in AD 52, these are the people who received the Gospel. Therefore they have that inherent quality of receiving good things from others,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the United States.

The cardinal, who is also the major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, was on a pastoral visit to the Americas in June.

While Christians make up 2.3 percent of India’s population, and Catholics only 1.8 percent, they enjoy respect and dignity in the country because that is “a cultural aspect of India,” quoted Cardinal Cleemis on June 27.

The prelate visited Philadelphia on June 22.

The 57-year-old prelate became the Catholic Church’s youngest cardinal in 2012, the first ever named for the Syro-Malankara rite and therefore the first to elect a pontiff, Pope Francis in 2013. He spoke to archdiocesan officials in Philadelphia about the Catholic communities in India and, with recent migration, in the United States.

The Church leader sees the recent incidents of violence against Christians in India as “a sign of political opportunism by minority actors in Indian society.” He refuses to believe that they are acts of religious hatred or discrimination by most Indians of any religious creed, or by the secular Indian government.

He is loathe to call such attackers Hindu but rather “people who have not understood Hindu religion,” he said. “It is a tiny group but this group is trying to influence the vast majority of the Hindu population saying, ‘this is the only country we have as Hindus.’”

The cardinal sees such attempts to swing India from a secular state respectful of all faiths to one of a single religion, Hinduism, as misguided and out of step with India’s tradition and the will of its people set into the country’s constitution.

“The majority of Hindus are still secular, (which) means you accept the other religion as they are,” he said. “’Secular’ is not against religious values. Catholic and secular means you acknowledge Muslims and Hindus as they are.”

The majority Hindus, he said, “are a very God-fearing people, very welcoming people, and still they care for other communities as well. The vast majority are Hindu but it is not a Hindu nation. (It is) a federal republic with a secular constitution, a very open and welcoming community.”

The Syro-Malankara Church, one of the two Oriental Catholic rites in India, is based in Kerala, southern India. It claims almost half a million Catholic faithful worldwide. The other rite is the Syro-Malabar Church that claims 3.5 million followers. Both Catholic rites trace their Christian roots to the evangelization of St. Thomas the Apostle in the first century.

In the United States, the Eparchy of Mary Queen of Peace governs all the churches of the Syro-Malankara rite, including St. Jude Church in Philadelphia’s East Oak Lane section.

The visit to Philadelphia is not the first for Cardinal Cleemis. He saw the local Catholic community here as an official for three years in the New York-based Mary, Our Lady of Peace Eparchy, which serves more than 11,000 Syro-Malankara faithful in the United States and Canada, according to 2012 Vatican statistics.

As with many peoples immigrating to America, the first generation maintains strong ties to their homeland while the next generation becomes more firmly rooted here.

The same is true of Indian Catholics today, and Cardinal Cleemis sees it as “a positive thing. As they come to a new culture they have to get rooted in that. America has become their home. People will become conscious of their land — this land — and work for its progress.”

He believes Christians of Indian heritage can contribute to the Catholic Church’s emphasis in America on strengthening the family.

“I am sure our presence here in this great country will enhance further the growth of the family,” he said.

Although he sees divorce on the rise in many societies, “patience, sacrifice, mutual understanding” are strong values among Indian families. And moreover, “what God has united let men not divide. God has united you, it’s not a man-made reality,” the cardinal said. “That focus is to be given to the families, and I hope our liturgy and our sacramental life are also positively contributing toward our presence here.”

As one sign of the growing presence of Syro-Malankara Catholics’ growth in the States, Cardinal Cleemis pointed to “a very well established youth group in our eparchy here,” and said a diocesan youth assembly will gather this summer at Holy Family University in Northeast Philadelphia, July 29-31.

– matters india

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2 Responses to “Cardinal Cleemis applauds Indian Hindus’ openness”
  1. Fergus Misquitta says:

    This CLEMIS fellow with his new found position / elevation should be extremely careful of what he says — he should not pontificate on the virtues of other religions — but restrict himself to opining on Christianity — we have enough of problems and bigotry dogging us here in India

    • Loyola Gonsalves says:

      I respectfully request that the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India not be addressed as this “CLEMIS fellow”, but should be given the respect due to a man of god and an Archbishop at that.

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