Sources: Long Island Catholic Weekly, April 5th, 2000, New York, USA
HYDERABAD, India (CNS) -- The appointment of India's first "dalit'' (low caste) archbishop evoked mixed reactions among church people in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. While some have criticized the Vatican for ignoring "ground realities'' in transferring Bishop Marampudi Joji of Vijayawada to Hyderabad, others said his promotion as the state's metropolitan archbishop will bring "new life'' to the 1-million-strong Andhra church. Expressing shock over the appointment, outgoing Archbishop Samineni Arulappa of Hyderabad said, "Rome is being taken for a ride. Rome does not know the ground realities,'' reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.
The recently retired archbishop announced his successor's appointment at a press conference in the Andra Predesh capital of Hyderabad, March 18. He later attributed Archbishop Joji's promotion to propaganda. "If I say something, it will be interpreted as oppressing the oppressed, meaning the dalits" he told UCA News. Claiming that 95 percent of Hyderabad archdiocese's priests opposed the appointment, he gave his successor less than five years in his new post. Hyderabad's Chancellor, Father Henry D'Souza, however, described Archbishop Joji as a "good administrator," although he remained noncommittal about the new archbishop's efficiency as a pastor. He said he foresaw trouble if the new archbishop failed to adjust to Hyderabad's cosmopolitan community. In Vijayawada, "he deals mostly with villagers". Father D'Souza said.
Archbishop Joji told UCA News from Vijayawada that he was grateful to God for making him the first dalit archbishop "not only in India, but in the entire world." His priority, he said is to reorganize the archdiocese's pastoral setup so that development will reach the needy. Ensuring dalits' equal rights in education and women's development and empowerment are the new archbishop's other priorities. A Jesuit priest in Andra Predesh told UCA News that Archbishop Joji needs to be careful in Hyderabad, because its several linguistic groups and communities would try to pull him in different directions. Archbishop Arulappa expressed fear that the dalit prelate would work only for his own caste, while a priest in Hyderabad who asked not to be named accused Archbishop Joji of not treating fellow dalits with dignity. "When the oppressed becomes liberated, he turns oppressor. In fact, he adopts a divide and rule policy," the priest told UCA News.