DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY November 8, 1999 vol. 10, no. 211
NEWS & VIEWS
POPE ARRIVES IN INDIA AMID PROTESTS
VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II left Rome on Friday, November 5, to begin a trip to India, during which he will release his apostolic exhortation wrapping up the work of the Asian Synod.
The Holy Father arrived in New Delhi at 8 PM, after nightfall, and there was no official greeting party from the Indian government. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls explained that the quiet arrival had been planned, since the Pope would be raveling "not to India itself but to the whole Asian continent." The Pope will be formally welcomed by India's political leaders on November 6, the first full day of his stay in New Delhi.
However, the Pope was greeted at the airport by leaders of India's episcopal conference, headed by Archbishop Alan Basil de Lastic of Delhi. Also on hand were Archbishop Henry D'Souza of Calcutta, representing the country's Latin- rite bishops; Archbishop Mar Baselios of Trivandrum, representing the Syro- Malankar rite; and Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly, representing the Syro-Malabar rite. Several other prelates who had participated in the Asian Synod joined in the welcoming committee, including Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Seoul, Korea; Cardinal Jozef Tomko of the Congregation for Evangelization; and Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta, Indonesia. The relator general for the Asian Synod, Cardinal Paul Shan Kou-Shi of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, also was on hand, as was the Synod's secretary general, the Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India.
As the Pope's plane headed toward New Delhi, Navarro-Valls had downplayed the security risks that might arise after a series of demonstrations organized by Hindu fundamentalists who oppose the papal visit. Navarro-Valls told reporters that the Holy See was not frightened by the Hindu demonstrations that have been occurring regularly since October 20, and said that the participants represented a "minor" group, which "does not reflect a large popular movement." He also pointed out that-- while some Hindu leaders denounce Christianity-- the number of Hindu parents enrolling their children in Catholic schools continues to rise.
Cardinal Jan Schotte had told journalists that the organizers of the papal visit had been in contact with the nuncio in New Delhi to ask for news about a November 4 demonstration outside the nuncio's residence. The latest news from India "did not give cause for any alarm," Cardinal Schotte said, explaining that the demonstration was a relatively small one, and the number of Hindu fundamentalists participating in recent events had been falling.
However, Vatican officials indicated that while they were not worried about
the Pope's security, they were taking the Hindu fundamentalists quite
seriously for other reasons. Navarro-Valls pointed out that several
prominent Hindu groups were adamantly opposed to a visit from the Pontiff,
on the pretext that Christians were engaged in illicit conversion of Hindus.
That attitude, the Vatican spokesman said, shows "a lack of respect for the
fundamental right of every human person to choose his own religion
according to his own conscience."
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NEWS & VIEWS