Preparations for an Hindu festival in a nation that is "witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere", said the Archbishop in his letter to Catholic churches in Delhi. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Preparations for a Hindu festival in a nation that is “witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere”, according to the Archbishop in his letter to Catholic churches in Delhi. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

The Archbishop of Delhi’s call for a ‘prayer campaign’ in India, ahead of next year’s elections has been criticised by the governing party.

In a circular to all Catholic churches in the capital, dated 8 May, Archbishop Anil Couto asked for a weekly day of fasting “for the nation”, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.

“We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our constitution and the secular fabric of our nation,” the Archbishop wrote in his letter.

Leaders of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party and its militant wing, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), criticised the bishop’s letter.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who admitted he had not seen the letter, said “minorities are safe” in the country, and that “no one is allowed to discriminate on the basis of caste or religion”, according to the Hindustan Times.

“This is a direct attack by the Church on Indian secularism and democracy…,” RSS leader Rakesh Sinha told news agency ANI, adding it was “a direct intervention by the Vatican as these Bishops are appointed by the Pope. Their accountability is not to India but to the Pope,” Sinha said.

In a tweet he suggested that under Prime Minister Modi’s government, the Church and NGOs had received less money “to use for religious conversions” and this was part of their campaign for another government.

Archbishop Couto denied any political motive. “We have only asked our churches to spend one day a week to pray and it’s a private matter and no one can interfere with it”, he also told Indian news network News18.

“We are concerned with atmosphere, issues plaguing the country. It’s only a request from various people to pray for the country,” he said.

Karnataka State – ‘Truth and justice triumphed’ in elections

Meanwhile an Indian Jesuit priest, Fr. Cedric Prakash, told the Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides that the outcome of elections in Karnataka State earlier this month had been a victory for “truth and justice”.

A few days before the elections a “fake” letter was widely circulated in social and mainstream media, alleging a Catholic conspiracy to undermine the Hindu-nationalist BJP. The ‘political stunt’ was seen as an attempt by the BJP to sow division and garner votes.

Although the BJP won 104 of the 222 seats and became the largest party, the state, with its capital Bangalore, will be governed by a coalition led by the Congress Party.

“In this political drama, power, money and ideological manipulations of the BJP have failed. Truth and justice triumphed. But, over the course of four years, since the BJP has been governing at a federal level, the idea and spirit of India is being destroyed”.