11/14/2007, 00.00
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Kerala: Communists on a warpath against the Church, inciting people against us

by Nirmala Carvalho
In a press statement, the Communist Party claims that there are mysterious forces operating within the Church whipping up anti-Communist sentiments. The spokesman of the Syro-Malabar Synod tells AsiaNews that local Communists are going through an identity crisis. He calls for a sincere and prudent dialogue with them but without compromises with the Marxist ideology.

Tiruvanthapuram (AsiaNews) – In a statement released on Monday, the secretary of the Kerala branch of the Communist Party of India Veliyam Bhargavan said there are mysterious forces working behind the scenes trying to whip up anti-Communist sentiments among the people of Kerala. For him this is not acceptable since the Communist Party has welcomed believers in its ranks and has defended them from nationalist attacks. He accused Catholics of carrying out a baseless and ungrateful anti-Communist campaign.

In the press release, the political leader said that Communists had helped non Hindu believers under constant attack by Hindu fundamentalists. He said that Communists respected religious freedom and believers’ personal choices, recognising that there are Communists who are believers and that they are accepted. He did however stress that his party was against religion interfering in politics and vice versa.

His message appears to be a response to the 30,000-strong rally that took place in Thiruvambady, in the southern state of Kerala, on October 17 in which the Communists were asked to officially apologise to Mgr Mar Paul Chittilappilly for remarks made against him.

The protest was sparked by Pinarayi Vijayan, secretary of the Kerala branch of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who called the bishop a “wretched creature” who lies, adding later that a “lie is a lie, and just because it is uttered by a bishop it does not become a holy lie.”

At a pro-minority rights rally last September, Monsignor Chittilappilly delivered a speech in which he said that the late Mathai Chacko, a Kerala Communist MLA, had supposedly called for priest to receive the last rites as he lay dying. The prelate also said that Mr Chacko was married in church.

These remarks sparked the reaction against the Church’s “lies.”

“Ever since John Paul II received a Kerala Communist leader, the party’s image has changed. We were under the impression that it had abandoned atheism and materialism,” Fr Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod, told AsiaNews. “But we cannot forget Centesimus Annus which bans any compromise between Christianity and Marxism.”

Notwithstanding their professed support for religious freedom, the reference made to the late Chacko’s extreme unction aroused bitter controversy among Communists. “The message of openness and coexistence that they [the Communists] want to promote appears contradictory. They may accept believers among their rank and file, but seemingly cannot admit that one of their leaders believed as well. This means that the ideology of atheism is still alive and well” in the party.

In India, “we have three types of Communism,” Father Thelakat said. “We have the Naxalbaris, who claim to be the true Communists because they never abandoned Marx’s ideology nor revised their politics. Then there are the Marxists who have not yet made it clear whether they have given up on armed struggle or not. Finally, we have Kerala Communists who have become a kind of Socialist Party and are less concerned about ideology. Still they can slip on issues like this one.”

In light of these facts, “the Church and the Communists must undoubtedly seek a dialogue and talk to one another if they want to improve the situation of the poor and the oppressed,” he said. “However, we cannot forget the Pope’s words about compromise which is only possible when ideology is fully rejected in favour of democracy.”

In conclusion, we must understand, the clergyman said, that the “the Communist Party in our state is going through an identity crisis like that of the Chinese Communist Party. The Church should not take a belligerent attitude but should instead help them [the Communists] out of the ideological fundamentalism that oppresses them. The path to follow is that of Gaudium et Spes, i.e. through a sincere and prudent dialogue.”

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