10/22/2007, 00.00
INDIA
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Kerala: Communists against the bishop, Church in the streets to protest

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Communist Party has not yet reacted to last week’s great demonstration when 30,000 people demanded formal apologies for the insulting remarks made about Mgr Mar Paul Chittilappilly, bishop of Thiruvambady. The issue was sparked by claims and counterclaims concerning the life of a former Communist Party secretary who supposedly requested the last sacraments on his death bed.

Thiruvambady (AsiaNews) – No reaction yet from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) following the protest march of 30,000 people in Thiruvambady, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, demanding formal apologies from the Communists for derogatory remarks made against Mgr Mar Paul Chittilappilly. There were bishops, priests, men and women religious as well as lay people, including members of other religions, from 106 parishes of the local diocese. Schools and hospitals run by the (Syro-Malabar) diocesan council were closed in protest.

The protest was sparked by the CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan when he called the bishop a “wretched creature” for his “lie” and reiterated his view later, saying: “A lie is a lie, and just because it is uttered by a bishop it does not become a holy lie.”

The insulting remarks were in turn caused by a speech Mgr Chittilappilly made last September at a rally in support of minorities’ rights. In it the prelate said that a former Kerala Communist leader, Mathai Chacko, supposedly called for priest in order to have the last sacraments administered as he lay dying. He is also supposed to have contracted marriage in church.

For Vijayan, such remarks were nothing but an act of support for the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), which is trying to regain the ground it lost in the last elections. In making such remarks against the late Communist leader, who lived a “rich Communist life”, the bishop portrayed the late Communist leader as a man of contradictions in order to carry out political propaganda.

According to Fr Paul Thelakat, from the Syro-Malabar Synod, “what is striking is not so much the content of the debate, but the hatred in the tone Vijayan used. There are practicing Christians, Muslims and Hindus in the party. Is there no space for faith in the politics?  If it so, then people with faith cannot engage in politics according to Communists and perhaps cannot vote for them. In India we consider this party like many others, secular but not atheist. But is it all a mask, that of democracy which they claim they want to serve?”

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