Letter to Apostolic Pro-Nuncio

Dr. M. Mary John
President of DCLM

Dalit C.Arokiadoss
General Secretary

Dr. M. Mary John, President, DCLM, 9th September 99
Suprabath Apartment,
No.22, Perumal Koil West Mada Street,
Saidapet, Chennai - 600 015. India. TO The Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India,
50-C, Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri,
New Delhi - 110 021. Your Excellency,

Sub : Request for an appointment with our Holy Father Pope John Paul 11 for our delegation during his visit to India in November, 1999 to make a representation on Dalit Christians problems - Regarding. Warm greetings from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) of Tamil Nadu - Pondicherry. We are profoundly happy that our Holy Father Pope John Paul 11 is visiting India in November, 1999 which we look forward to as a great occasion. The visit also takes place to mark the celebrations of the Great Jubilee 2000 of the birth of Jesus Christ.

While the visit of the Holy Father has great significance to the Christian Community in India and for the Jubilee, it will have greater meaning and relevance if it brings New Hope and life to the Dalit Christians who continue to suffer oppression and exclusion for long and at the same time who form a big majority in the Christian population in India. As your Excellency will be aware of, in the past 10 years, the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement has been struggling to establish the human equality and dignity, equality of opportunities. (including in the hierarchy and vocations) in our catholic church in India and very particularly in the Tamil Nadu - Pondicherry regions. The consciousness and concern of the Church was awakened by the DCLM about the caste-culture and caste-practices that are very much rooted and prevalent in the Indian Church with all its domination and oppression of the Dalits within. We the Dalit Christians are still left to protest this blatantly in human and unchristian situation with no responsible assurance and action from any quarters viz. the hierarchy, the congregations, the authorities and the institutions of our Catholic Church.

However, thanks to the struggle of the movement, the Bishops Council in some states and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) have on several occasions condemned this State of affairs, have expressed sympathies and have passed some rather ceremonial resolutions. But not serious structural, administrative and policy changes have been made that would bring real equality and empowerment to Dalit Christians within the Church.

We have waited for long with hope, pleaded for long with patience and now struggled for nearly a decade, but with very little response. In fact there is still resistance, antagonism, opposition and grave indifference to our just demands and our right place within the church.

In these circumstances, we are extremely anxious to see that the visit of our Holy Father Pope John Paul Il brings a New message and a New Hope of liberation to us and would lead to concrete solutions to our problems. His meeting with our delegation will restore confidence in Dalit Christians and instill greater sensitivity and responsibility in the hierarchy, authorities and the institutions of the Catholic church towards the Dalit Christians cause. That would indeed make the visit of our Pope a historically significant one for our Church in India.

We wish to point out that the oppression and persecution of the Dalits within the Church is as serious and appalling as the oppression and persecution of the religious minorities in the country. So, both the problems need an equal Apostolic concern of our Pope .

We are very confident that our Pope John Paul II who is well known for his extraordinary revolutionary steps on many important human rights, peace and justice issues around the world would show profound interest in finding solutions to Dalit Christians problems. His recent moves to apologize to the Jews for the 'Holocaust', to apologize to the Muslims for the 'Crusades', to accept the wrongs of the 'Inquisition' and open up its archives to scholars etc. have great historical significance of reconciliation, peace, restoration of human rights and cleansing the conscience of the church. These signify the Pope's "Vision ahead of the millennium". Much in the same spirit we are sure that our Pope would now show great concern in the Dalit Christians problems within the church and in the society. It will have historical significance to the millions of Dalit Christians forming the big majority in the Church in India. We wish to humbly point out that in the absence of seriousness and sincere effort by the hierarchy, authorities and institutions of the Church in India, our Pope has the special duty to their cause, which will be also an extraordinary gesture shown to the whole oppressed Dalit Community (about 200 million people) in India. The Dalits in India draw strength from the values of Jesus Christ and always look forward for the role of the world Christianity for their liberation from the Indian species of apartheid namely casteism.

Only thing is that the full truth about the casteism in the Indian Church and the continued oppression and exclusion of Dalit Christians rarely reach the Pope. So it is necessary and a right thing that a delegation from our Dalit Christian Liberation Movement get a chance to speak to him and represent directly.

He will definitely give audience to our delegation if only your Excellency takes special step it deserves and arrange for our meeting in the schedule of his visit. We request you to get in touch with others involved in planning his visits and do the needful.

Even during his First visit to Indian in 1986, Dalit Christian leaders in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere tried hard to get an appointment to meet him. This might not have been even brought to the notice of the Pope. Several representations and pleas were made to the Bishops concerned. But it was purposely and vehemently prevented by the Bishops and authorities responsible for arranging his engagements. Since there were no Dalit Bishops or a Dalit Cardinal to speak for us we were easily prevented. It is an injustice to the Dalit Christians who form a big majority in the Church. This is to be taken note of this disappointment was in a way a starting point of forming our Movement in Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry. Now at least during his 11 visit the long standing aspiration and expectation of Dalit Christians to make a representation to the Pope should be fulfilled.

There will be no real meaning in celebrating the great Jubilee 2000 of the birth of Jesus Christ by the Indian Church without an honest and determined effort to solve the problems of Dalit Christians and ensure equality to them in all forms. An indication of such effort would be allowing the Dalit Christians delegation to meet the Pope during his visit in India.

A delegation of our Movement in Pondicherry-Cuddalore diocese already met his Excellency Cardinal Lourdusamy D. Simon on 29th August 1999 during his visit in the diocese and submitted a memorandum. In that memorandum itself we appealed for his personal intervention to arrange for our meeting with the Pope. We hope that he passed on the request to you. (Please find enclosed a copy of the memorandum to him).

The inauguration of the Jubilee 2000 in India has to be importantly an occasion of evolving and inaugurating a national agenda by the Church for the final and total emancipation, equality and empowerment of the Dalit Christians who for long suffer oppression and exclusion church. We are anxious to see that we enter the Third Millennium with adequate assurance of this. It can not be just in the form of Theological reflections and wishful and pious declarations, but has to be in terns of real and ample structural, administrative and policy changes it needs.

     We insist that our Holy Father the Pope is given a fair knowledge and first hand information about Dalit Christians problems within and outside the Church, that he gets to know about the failure of the Indian Church to prevent casteism and the deprivation of Dalit Christians in its hierarchies, administration and institutions, so that he could initiate appropriate measure.

       Our meeting with the Pope could be even as brief as possible and we would also present a memorandum. Hope your Excellency will understand our plight. Anxiety and concern and there will be no need for us to write more or take other steps for appointment. We earnestly request your Excellency to do the needful urgently and inform us, at the earliest possible, of the time and date of meeting the Pope.

Thanking your Excellency, Yours sincerely in Christ

Prof. Dr. M. Mary John, President
Dalit Christian Liberation Movement

Copy to

1. Most Rev. Dr. Alan D Lastic,Arch Bishop of Delhi & President of CBCI,
1, Ashok Place, New Delhi - 110 001, India.

2. Most Rov, Dr. A.M. ChInnappa, Chairman, CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC, Bishop of Vellore,34, Officer's Line, Vellore - 632 001, Tamil Nadu, India.

3. Most Rev. Dr. Aruldas James,President, TNBC Arch Bishop of Madras - Mylapore, Bishops House,Santhome,, Chennai - 600 004.India.

4. Cardinal Most Rev. Lourdusamy D. Simon,St. Peters Church,Vatican City, Italy.

5. Rev. Fr. S. Lourduswamy,Executive Secretary,CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC,I Ashok Place,Gole Dakhana,New Delhi - 110 001 , India.

6. Rev. Fr. A. Philomine Raj,Secretary,TNBC Commission for SC/ST/BC,Deepam, P. Box No.146, Karumandapam,Trichy - 620 001, Tamil Nadu, India.