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Indian PM Modi and Pope Francis: Flip side of the real story.

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

By Peter Pereira, USA

Photo Credit to Public domain

Indian Prime Minister Modi met Pope Francis. Meeting took place on October 30, Saturday, at 8.30 a.m., Vatican time (noon IST).

The Indian news media’s highlight about Modi’s meeting with the Pope is as a “big political move” of the BJP to woo Indian Christians. Over the past years, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS has been criticized for its brutal attack on Christians in India. Thus, it is believed that Modi’s papal audience is to appease the Christians in India. The BJP government has been against Christians in India. Anti-Christian violence and atrocities against the community have increased since the BJP government began its rule. The government’s Hindu Rashtra agenda challenges the identity of Indian Christians. There have been many occasions in the recent past that priests and religious sisters were mercilessly attacked. The pastors were dragged out of worshipping places and taken to police stations. Many churches were vandalized, and on several occasions, law enforcement agencies stood tight-lipped without taking any action. Whistleblowers have criticized the violations of the fundamental rights by organized, hardcore Hindu-led groups. Anti-conversion laws have been adopted by many BJP-led states in India. Eighty-four-year-old Jesuit priest Fr. Stan Swamy, a human-rights activist, died in judicial custody. It has shocked the public, who blamed the death on negligence and persecution from the BJP-led government. Unfortunately, Church authorities are oblivious to these atrocities. The mastermind behind this informal meet

Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council president Cardinal George Alencherry, who faces numerous criminal inquiries in Indian courts, said the meeting between Modi and Pope Francis “is a historic meeting and it will add more energy and warmth to the relations between our country and the Vatican and the Catholic Church.” This statement reveals more of the political ramifications. Recent upheaval about the land scam in Kerala and Pala bishop Joseph Kallarangatt’s controversial statement on love jihad created a lot of hue and cry in the society. The BJP-led government fuelled the communal tensions in Kerala. Thus, this visit has a mastermind who played a partnership role with the nation's political pundits. The tragedy is more alarming because the political interest of a nation has become the onus of certain church leaders. Obviously, the Church leader has a vested interest in this political strategy. Three Cardinals visited Modi a few months ago Just before Kerala's state election, three Cardinals visited the prime minister in a surprise move. Two Cardinals were from Kerala and one from Mumbai. Political debates were flaring up before state elections. Christians of Kerala were confused as the church leaders were heading towards a meeting with Modi.

The meeting was crucial, and this dramatic move took place while the election was near. It exacerbated the division among the Catholic community that eventually benefited the LDF-led government. The Congress-led UDF has drastically been divided due to the appeasing strategy of BJP. BJP’s political leaders played a key role in wooing Christians in Kerala, though it did not fetch them a victory. Cardinal Alencherry is facing an investigation from India’s Enforcement Directorate on his alleged role in money laundering in connection with the notorious land deal, which has shaken the moral consciousness of Indian Catholics. The Enforcement Directorate has taken a strong stand against Cardinal Alencherry. In the Catholic Church, a cardinal is appointed by the Head of the Church. A cardinal in the Catholic Church often plays the role of papal envoy in a country, and they are the top-most office-bearers in the hierarchy of the Church. Usually, if a Cardinal is facing a criminal investigation, that immediately affects the Catholic Church's credibility. Often, Rome is fastidious to take steps to remove a cardinal from his office if the public image of the church is in peril. It was evidenced by the actions against Cardinal Angelo Becciu whose controversial role was revealed by the media. Later he resigned, and Pope Francis accepted his resignation with immediate effect. It shows the integrity of the Catholic Church and its leader, the Pope. Any dilly-dallying to cover up immoral actions can terribly destroy the great image of the righteous governance of the Catholic Church. Public image of the Catholic Church in India is at stake Cardinal Alencherry has been in the spotlight of international news media as he is found guilty of criminal offences committed in the controversial land deal. He is facing more than 16 cases in different courts in India. The High Court of Kerala ordered a judicial inquiry on his role in the land deal of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam by rejecting his plea to quash cases against him. He was penalized by the Income Tax department by imposing Rs 6 crores (USD 800,450). Cardinal Alencherry is found guilty of cheating the civil authorities by showing the deal price lower than the current market value while executing the deals. Three commissions, including the Vatican-entrusted international firm KPMG, investigated the “controversial land deal” and found the Cardinal’s role suspicious, with charges of embezzlement, abuse of office, and fraud. While dealing with an intermediary in the land deal, the KPMG investigative team found that the Cardinal asked the agent to deposit Rs. 1 million in his name in the Deepika News daily. It has created a hue and cry in society, vehemently criticized by the laity for swindling huge sums of money in this deal, which was exposed by these investigative agencies. The win-win strategy of the political game The immediate reactions from Cardinal Alencherry surprised Christians in India because his conspicuous silence on atrocities against Christians raised eyebrows. Moreover, his role and controversies on the land deal and corruption became a scandal in the society. The political gain of a ruling party can be understood as it has a political agenda to gain power in Goa in the coming days. Everyone knows that the state election is fast approaching in Goa. Also, in the long run, BJP may have a plan to widen the inroads to political power in Kerala. What is really saddening is that a mastermind is babbling the power and his office to gain political support to camouflage his criminal deeds. Thus, the win-win strategy is not the truth, but clamoring hands behind this power game. Mathew John, a retired civil servant of India, writes in an opinion piece in Scroll, “In the last few years, instead of shepherding the faithful to be exemplary citizens in a multicultural society, some custodians of the Catholic Church in Kerala have, among other acts of sacerdotal dereliction, wilfully fuelled communal tensions. As a Syro-Malabar Catholic, I have been embarrassed and disappointed by these happenings in the Church over the past few years. I realize that, as with other religions, the problem is not with the song but with the off-key singers.”

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