WITH THE 2019 elections approaching, Goa’s Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao has advised Catholics to play an “active role” in politics while warning that the “the Indian Constitution is in danger” and that “a kind of monoculturalism” has gripped the country.
In his annual pastoral letter for 2018-19, which was released Sunday, Ferrao wrote: “It is advisable that the lay faithful play an active role in the political field; they should, however, follow the dictates of their conscience while doing so and shun ‘sycophantic’ politics. They should thus strengthen democracy and, on the other hand, help to improve the functioning of the state administration. The ideals of social justice and the fight against corruption are of utmost importance.”
Opinion | Mis-reading archbishop’s letter
Stating that people across the country are being “uprooted from their land and homes in the name of development”, the Archbishop warned that “human rights is being trampled” as “in recent times we see a new trend emerging in our country which demands uniformity in what and how we eat, dress, live and even worship, a kind of monoculturalism”.
Ferrao’s letter comes weeks after Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto wrote in a letter that India is “witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere” and the community should begin a “prayer campaign” ahead of the elections. Couto’s remarks faced criticism, including from Home Minister Rajnath Singh, following which he clarified that they were not directed at the BJP-RSS.
This is the first time that Ferrao has openly urged Catholics in Goa to prepare for the elections. Catholics account for over 25 per cent of the state’s population of 1.5 million.
In the letter, Ferrao wrote that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India had declared in its plenary assembly that the Church should “diligently promote and stand by values like secularism, freedom of speech and freedom to practise one’s religion enshrined in the Indian Constitution”.
While focussing on poverty, Ferrao wrote that the need to “work hard to protect the Constitution” is more urgent now.
“At the time of elections, the candidates confuse the minds of many people by making false promises. And the people, on their part, often sell their precious vote for selfish, petty gain,” he wrote.
Pointing to the agenda of the Bishops’ conference, Ferrao urged parishes and small Christian communities to take forward the “values of secularism and freedom of speech”.