New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - The Indian government has praised the service rendered by the Catholic Church towards the poor, the marginalized and the needy in India. As Fides learns, on December 12 Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was the guest of honor at the Christmas greetings ceremony in New Delhi and said: "The Catholic community is peace-loving and it contributes immensely to nation building. Jesus’s message for love and peace is for all seasons, cultures and nationalities. People all over the world regardless of caste, creed or nationality celebrate Christmas with great joy. Catholics, in particular, work for people’s welfare, have opened thousands of dispensaries and hospitals and manage best educational institutions in the country which create awareness of the need for education and training for those in need ".
Naidu then remarked that "education is the most important tool for social transformation. It helps impart values compassion, morality and ethics" and urged Christians to continue their service with particular attention to the disadvantaged sectors of society: "Christmas, the feast of love and joy caring and sharing, is time to renew commitment to serve society, work for social and economic inclusion of all".
The Christmas message of peace - he said - is relevant in these days when people misuse religion, specifying that "religion has nothing to do with terror. Terrorism is the enemy of humanity".
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI), thanked and reiterated the Catholic community’s commitment to the welfare of the country, assuring "prayerful support, deep commitment to take the nation to its height of glory".
"The Church of India is at the service of the nation. People in the periphery need the Lord’s assurance", he added, urging the government to take necessary steps to bring peace and progress to every citizen, recalling that diversity and pluralism in Indian society "express the beauty of divine life".
The Cardinal also took the opportunity to ask the vice president to declare the recent Ockhi cyclone as a "national disaster". The Cardinal, who comes from Thiruvananthapuram, one of the worst affected by the November 30 cyclone, noted that thousands of fishermen in southern coastal region have lost everything "except their faith in God".
"Naidu's statement should be reassuring for Christian minorities in India", remarks Indian Catholic journalist and commentator Anto Akkara to Fides, recalling that Naidu belongs to the Barathiya Janata Party, the Indian nationalist party in power in the Federation, who is supported by violent Hinduist and nationalist groups such as "Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh" (RSS) that promotes exclusive ideology (India to Hindus) and seeks to eliminate the demonstrations of Christian and Muslim minorities.
According to Fr. Suresh Mathew, director of the Delhi weekly "Indian Currents", one cannot forget that "India is being thrown in the depths by a small group of antinational forces composed of fundamentalists, fascists, fanatics" that the government should control.
According to the 2011 Census, there are 24 million Christians in India, among whom 19.9 million are Catholics. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 13/12/2017)