Dr. M. Mary John,M.S.C.,M.Phil., Ph.D., M.A.(Socio)M.Sc.(Mgt. NGOs; London)
President of DCLM, Tel: 044-3711138

Dalit C. Arokiadoss, M.A.B.Ed
General Secretary, Tel: 04115-52313

A Follow up to our letter to the Holy Father dated 7th October, 1999 seeking for an appointment for our Delegation.

Our Most Beloved Holy Father,

Warm and reverential greetings from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM), India. We are very happy to greet you and welcome to our motherland. We consider it a historical moment to the church in India and to the people at large.

While we, the Dalit Christians join the whole Christian Community in India to welcome you and receive your blessings and Pontifical message, we have also an important duty and a special task of presenting this memorandum for your attention and action with utmost urgency.

This is something, which we should have done much earlier, even during your last visit to India in 1986. We indeed attempted to meet you and make representation, but we were prevented by our Church authorities here. This time also we have requested for an appointment to present this memorandum.

Casteism is the Indian species of Apartheid and we, Dalits, known as the Blacks of India, are still facing atrocities and oppression of all kinds, still seeking fundamental freedom and basic needs. Our situation within the Church is not different, and in fact still worse in some respects.

We Dalit Christians form a big majority in the Catholic Church in India but we are suppressed. There has been loss of our civil rights and violation of our human rights and dignity within the Church. After a long silence and patience for decades, we cannot but expose the failure of the Indian Church to do justice to us and seek other remedies and measures. We want you, our Holy Father to intervene to root-out casteism in the church and the long standing injustices, discriminations and marginalisation suffered by us within the church.

It is a historical problem and needs a historical moment and effort to solve it. So, more than for others, we, Dalit Christians expect your present visit to be a historical moment for us, especially at this juncture of the Jubilee 2000 of the Birth of Christ. As for us, we are still in the making of history for our freedom, for our dignity, equality and development.

We have reached the point of taking up struggles for this. It should be realised that the cause of Dalits within the Indian Church is as important and serious as the cause of the minorities in India. This perception is important. So, it is time that our voice reaches you.

Our demands are eminently in keeping with the spirit and values of Christ's message and the recent social teachings of the Church and the human rights perception. Our problem cannot be solved by mere theological reflections and choicest verbal gestures. Various policies, administrative and structural changes have to be implemented to radically and rapidly change the structured inequalities. All these have to be seen in concrete action. Your Holiness intervention is crucial and necessary for this. With these in view and keeping in mind the magnitude and urgency of the problem, we submit to you the following proposals suggestions and requests.

1. We seek your Pontifical declaration against the casteism in the Church and the consequent discriminations and deprivations of Dalit Christians. All forms of untouchability. have to be condemned publicly and declared as mortal sin.

2. Holy Father may kindly instruct the Indian Church authorities (Bishops, Clergy and the Religious) to immediately ban all forms of divisions and separations or exclusion viz. in the church, in the funeral paths and graveyards, in the Church festivals, etc. The Priests and Bishops should be barred from celebrating or giving sacraments where castes Christians practice such things.

3. We, Dalit Christians are severely marginalised in the vocations of Priests and Nuns and in the appointments for any higher authority or positions. Even though Dalit Christians are about 75% in the Catholic Church in the state of Tamil Nadu, South India, only about 6% among the priests and nuns are Dalits. Similar situation exists in the whole of India. This must be taken up seriously, as it is against the natural and distributive justice and democratic values. Some special drive and mission could be initiated by you in Vatican and by the Major Superiors of the Religious Congregations to ordain more Dalit Priests and Nuns. The Dalit Christian people and their .movement will extend all cooperation for this.

4. Similarly there are not even about 8 Dalit Bishops among the nearly 150 Catholic Bishops in India. This is again a serious exclusion of the Dalit Christians from the mainstream of the Church even though they form a big majority in the Catholics population. It is a clear proof that the caste-domination is operating at all levels of making the choice, recommendations and decisions for the appointment of Bishops. This needs to be corrected and justice must be done to Dalit Christians at the earliest. There should be at least 75 Dalit Catholic Bishops in India and at least 10 in Tamil Nadu. We request you Holy Father to take immediate steps to correct this serious imbalance. This needs your particular attention and a special drive.

At present there are three vacancies for Bishops in Tamil Nadu. These vacancies could be filled by appointing Dalit Priests, as a special gesture of your present visit to India. Similarly, there should be equitable representation for Dalit Priests in the posts of auxiliary Bishops. Since Dalit Priests in some States may be very few, the appointment of Dalit Bishop could be done at the Inter-State level also.

5. Again, we have not had a Cardinal from among Dalit Christians so far. This is again a very serious exclusion suffered by Dalits even though they form a big majority in the Church. This also has to be given a special consideration during your present visit. We wish to point out that Dalit Christians can never be empowered or get their due rights without these power sharing to them at all levels. Moreover, we should not allow the ridiculous situation to continue where the Dalits are called to be Christians in majority, but they are only rarely called to be priests, nuns, Bishops or cardinals. This is fundamentally defeating the cause of the Dalits within and outside the Church.

6. Casteism in the Church not only causes the loss of our civil or social rights and violates our human dignity and basic natural equality but it also has very adversely affected our educational and economic progress for generations.

There is violation of the distributive justice to them in our Minority Institutions themselves. In our leading and well-established institutions, Dalit Christians are severely marginalised both in admissions and appointments. In most of these institutions, their representation is only less than 10%. There is lack of policies in these institutions to see that the historically oppressed Dalit Christians get their due share in proportion to their bigger population. By and large the caste authorities of the church disown the Dalit Christians when it comes to sharing such privileges, benefits and facilities. This caste-culture of the Church has very adversely affected the Dalit Christian community in the past more than 50 years. Even knowing that the Dalit Christians have been denied the constitutional safeguards just because they are Christians, they have wantonly neglected their cause. Thus we are doubly discriminated. Because of this, a great majority of Dalit Christians are illiterate and are living below poverty line. This state of affairs in our institutions has to be brought to the attention of the Major Superiors and Generals of all our Religious Congregations so that they give directions to their local superiors and authorities to make policies of preference and reservation to Dalit Christians to enable the community to get their due share in admissions and appointments. We request you, Holy Father to appeal and ask the Major Superiors and Superior Generals to take up this issue immediately and directly intervene. Their action plan and close monitoring for at least 3 years can help to set right the situation.

7. The local Church authorities, institutions and organisations have built up and accumulated financial and material resources and continue to get financial aid from Catholic donors and agencies all over the world, primarily with the appeal to help the underprivileged and the untouchable Dalits and poor people. But these have not really reached them, not their due share and not even a minimum share. There is no transparency and accountability to these people, their leaders or their committees. This has been going on for decades. A firm appeal is necessary by your Holiness to see that this does not continue. They have to see that things are monitored with the help of Dalit leaders and their committees.

The cumulative effect of all these has caused enormous damage to our progress and has ended us in a tragic situation. The Church has done precious little about it.

8. These need to be debated at length and many steps need to be initiated. So a necessary and important step which we strongly suggest and request is that a separate 'Cell or Secretariat for Dalit Christians Affairs' is started in Vatican in which some 3 Dalit Christian leaders and 2 Dalit Priests are represented and it functions for at least 3 years. This will amply facilitate a process, which could bring impact at the local levels, official levels and the international levels of the Church and the Christian Community. This can be an advocacy body to promote understanding, policy changes and action plans at different levels. This has to be recognized by all the Church bodies, World Congregations and Christian Organizations.

These are minimum steps that are required to bring about meaningful and tangible changes in support of the cause of Dalit Christians. Any further delay will only 'go to strengthen their struggle. The Dalit Christians are waiting for long for peaceful solution from the Church authorities here. But lack of sincerity and sensitivity towards the core problems cannot lead to a peaceful solution. Peaceful solution consists of a sincere, honest and speedy attempts to restore justice and equality to the oppressed and the suffering people. That has to come from the authorities, the powerful and the dominant. We cannot depend only on the authorities of the Indian Church, speaking from our experience so far. Only assurances are given by them but not much in terms of action. What is done for us is too late and yet too little. So we seek the urgent co-operation and intervention of your secretariat officials, various Pontifical  Councils /Congregations and Commissions, the Major Superior generals of our religious congregations to solve our problems.

We have to take this step as we do not know what has been communicated to you officially so far by the authorities here on the caste-problem within the Church. The Dalit Christian problem is usually distorted, diverted, sidelined or shadowed from you, the Vatican officials and the Major superiors/Generals of our Religious congregations. So, it is high time that we have a direct access and dialogue with all these authorities to find solutions to our problems, finally and justly.

Finally, we also request you to use your good office and diplomatic relations and influence to impress upon the Indian government to extend the constitutional reservations and safeguards provided for the other Dalits to Dalit Christians also.

We ardently request you our Holy Father to raise our issues and give instructions and directions at various levels when you meet the CBCI, the CRI, other Catholic authorities and delegations of the Church during your visit. This will cleanse the conscience of the Indian Church and help to become truly a Church of the oppressed -and the poor.

Looking forward to these historical moments in your present visit to India.

Yours devotedly in Christ

Dr.Mary John, Suprabath Apartment, B-2, 
22, Perumal Koil West Mada Street, Saidapet, Chennai, 600 015, India
( For the Delegates of Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM)

Copy to

1. The Cardinal Secretary of State of Vatican, Italy
2. The Apostolic Nuncio to India, New Delhi
3. The various Councils/Congregation/Commissions of Cardinals and Bishops in Vatican.
4. Cardinals Lourdhusamy D. Simon, Vatican, Italy.
5. Most Rev.Dr. Alan D Lastic, President, CBCI & Arch Bishop of Delhi
6. Most Rev. Dr. A.M. Chinnappa, Chairman, CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC, New Delhi.,
7. Most Rev. Dr. Arul Das James, President TNBC, and Archbishop of Madras, Mylapore, Chermai.
8. Rev. Fr. S. Lourdhusamy, Executive Secretary, CBCI Commision for SCT/ST/BC, New Delhi.
9. Rev. Fr. A. Philomin Raj, Secretary, TNBC Commission for SC/ST/BC, Trichy, Tamil Nadu.
10. All the Bishops in India
11. The Superiors/Generals/Provincials etc. of Religious Congregations.
11. The Heads of CRI in India.
12. Other Officials and Officials bodies of Catholic Church, Priest and Nuns, etc.


Previous Letters of DCLM
Dalit Accusations against the Caste-minded Hierarchy
DCLM (Dalit Christian Liberation Movement) Letter to His Holiness Pope John Paul II
DCLM Letter to Apostolic Pro-Nuncio

DCLM Memorandum to CRI