Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s Catholics no longer consider the Monarchy’s impositions on the Jesuits valid, now that the country is a secular State and that the king has lost his power. The bishop of Nepal speaks with AsiaNews about the situation of the Church and its’ initiatives.
The accord dates back to 1951 when the then king, Tribhuwan, invited the Society of Jesus to found the Saint Francis Xavier in Kathmandu, after almost two centuries of anti Christian prohibition. But the king only allowed education, forbidding any form of missionary activity and evangelization. A ban that was always respected by the Jesuits, who in 1984 founded a further three schools in the country. But now Nepal is no longer a Hindu monarchy and royal decrees are no longer law, so Catholics are once again free to carry out any type of activity.
Msgr. Anthony Sharma, made the first bishop of Nepal in 2007 Nepal, told AsiaNews that for years “We were not allowed to go out of valley [Katmandu] to run our activities but now we are going on the invitation of people outside". "Now the situation is different and king can't do any thing to stop our activities. The people see us and join us”.
Born in Kathmandu in 1937, a Nepalese Jesuit priest since 1968, the prelate still recalls the recent persecutions of the Church. Such as when the secret police arrested him as he celebrated Easter Mass in Biratnagar (Eastern Nepal) in 1986, charging him with having prayed together with non Catholics. At the ceremony non baptised relatives of some Catholics were present and it took hours to clarify the circumstances with the authorities. In the ’70 and ’80’s there were continual arrests and sentencing as well as years in prison for anyone who converted to Christianity, or even those simply caught reading a Bible.
Msgr. Sharma, nonetheless reiterates “entry to work in the field of God should be given by God and people are free to respond to the grace of God. It is the He who moves all not we”. He also recalled that during a recent gathering in France that he also attended many participants urged the publication of a “code of conduct from Vatican, which will guide us with conversion, our actions and behaviour ", so as not to run the risk of proselytism.