Pope Not Visiting India During S.Asia Tour; Catholic Groups Disappointed
Pope Francis will visit Myanmar and Bangladesh during his South Asia tour.
The Indian government has not shown any interest in extending an invite to Pope Francis to visit the country during his South Asian tour, despite repeated requests made by the community, Catholic groups say.
The government is aware of the community’s desire to invite the Pope to India, but there has been no go-ahead yet, a senior official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) said, the Hindu reported. “We have been in contact with the government and have conveyed our request at the highest level to invite Pope Francis to India, but we have not received any positive response so far,” the report quoted the official as saying.
Pope Francis’ tour to the subcontinent begins on Nov. 27, but much to the disappointment of the Catholic community in the country, the itinerary does not include India. The Vatican under the pope was instrumental in securing the release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil from the hands of insurgents in Yemen in September this year, they say, adding that it would only have been courteous for India to host the religious figure during his visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The pope will first visit Myanmar between Nov. 27 and 30. The next country on his itinerary is Bangladesh, which he is scheduled to visit between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2. In Myanmar, he is expected to take up the issue of Rohingya refugees with leader Aung San Suu Kyi. “As I prepare to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, I wish to send a message of greeting and friendship to everyone. I can’t wait to meet you,” pope Francis said in a social media message during the weekend.
Many Indian clergymen like Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai; Cardinal Mar George Alencherry of Syro Malabar Catholic Church; Cardinal Placidus Toppo, the Archbishop of Ranchi; and Bishop Lumen Monteiro of the Diocese of Agartala are likely to meet the Pope in Dhaka along with other clergymen from West Bengal.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary-general of the CBCI, said that it was disappointing that the pope was visiting two neighboring countries of India and not being invited here, the Indian Express reported. “It was with a heavy heart, we received the news that the Holy See cannot visit India,” the report quoted him as saying. “This is not vis-à-vis just Catholics in the country, a Holy Visit would have been a prestige for the whole country in the eyes of the world. It is indeed embarrassing that the Pope is coming to the neighborhood, and visiting two smaller countries and not India. As an Indian, it hurts that the Pope will not be coming here. I hope it hurts all Indians, too.”