01/22/2021, 17.00
INDIA
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Kerala Bishop publicly supports Catholic candidate in state election

by Nirmala Carvalho

Mgr Jacob Manathodath sent a letter to the CPI-M secretary in support of Isaac Varghese’s inclusion on the party list, a decision that has raised some eyebrows. For a former spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Church, “It is not good for a bishop or a priest to show public support” in politics. But in this case, the endorsement is an internal party matter.

 

Delhi (AsiaNews) – A Kerala bishop has sent a letter of recommendation to a Christian industrialist who wants to run with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) for a seat in Palakkad district in the upcoming State Assembly election.

According to Bishop Mar Jacob Manathodath of the Eparchy of Palakkad (Palghat), the Christian entrepreneur is an ideal candidate for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) to represent the Mannarkkad constituency in the Kerala State Assembly.

The prelate is promoting the candidacy of Isaac Varghese, an industrialist from Kanjikode, also in Palakkad district. The Church is ready to support his political involvement through which will likely increase the LDF’s chances of victory in Mannarkkad. The LDF is an alliance of left-wing parties led by the CPI-M.

To this end, the prelate sent a letter to Kanam Rajendran, secretary of the Communist Party of India-Kerala State Committee, underscoring the fact that the Christian candidate is also backed by the Viswa Karma Sabha movement.

An active member of Congress until 1992, Varghese is now a member of the district committee of the Pravasi organisation.

In the letter of introduction to Rajendran, the bishop confirms that Varghese is an active member of the local Church and the Catholic community will do its utmost to help him win the seat.

In 2006, the Mannarkkad seat went to a Christian candidate, Jose Baby. However, in the elections that followed (2011 and 2016), N Shamusudeen, a candidate for the Muslim League, won.

Sources from the Diocese of Palakkad note that the bishop's letter does not deal with political issues, but only underlines the integrity and quality of the Christian candidate.

Asked by AsiaNews, Fr Paul Thelakkat, a former spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Church, wants to clarify the meaning of the endorsement.

In his view, “It is not good for a bishop or a priest to show public support for a political party. This is contrary to the secular nature of democracy. Furthermore, it is always good to keep a healthy distance from political and religious parties.

“In reality the bishop is not publicly asking people to vote for a political party. He is only asking a party to support the candidacy of one of its own members.”

“Many bishops and religious leaders at election time express support based on trust in favour of some people, to be candidates in a certain area. Most of them do so personally with political party leaders.”

“We Christians who are a minority in India must exercise the utmost caution with regard to involvement in parties at a time when our country is facing a democratic crisis in its majority religion”.

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