New protests for the failure to appoint Dalit bishops in Tamil Nadu
by Nirmala Carvalho

The Dalit Christian Liberation Movement wants a Dalit to be picked as bishop for one of the local vacant dioceses before Mgr Rayappan is consecrated. Most Catholics in Tamil Nadu are “untouchables”. Only one diocese in the state is led by an “untouchable”.

Pondicherry (AsiaNews) – Mgr Arulselvam Rayappan is set to become the new bishop of Salem (Tamil Nadu); however, for local Dalit Catholics, the appointment remains an open wound since the new prelate was not chosen from their own ranks, that of the “untouchables”.

The Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) held a new protest in Salem reiterating their demand to have a Dalit lead the diocese, something that has not happened for 15 years in any Tamil Nadu diocese, despite the fact that most Catholics belong to “disadvantaged castes”.

Pope Francis appointed Mgr Rayappan as bishop on 31 May.

Protesters in Salem also met with the local district collector, to whom they handed a memorandum accusing the Catholic Church of discrimination against Dalits and calling for the intervention of civil authorities.

In their note, protesters pointed out that, “out of 18 Catholic dioceses in Tamil Nadu, only one is led by a Dalit, this despite the fact that 75 per cent of the faithful belong to this community. This situation has been going on for decades.

“For more than a year we have been demanding that the issue of vacancies, including that of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, be solved. In many cases, episcopal sees have been vacant for two years.

“We ask that the episcopal consecration of Mgr Rayappan be stopped and that a Dalit bishop be appointed for one of the dioceses still waiting to have a leader. We appeal to Pope Francis to intervene.”