Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday interacted with three Cardinals of the Catholic Church on various issues being faced by the Christian community in the country.
In a tweet, Modi said, "Interacted with Mar George Cardinal Alencherry (Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church), Cardinal Oswald Gracias, (Archbishop of Bombay and President of CBCI), and His Beatitude Baselios Cardinal Cleemis (Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church). After meeting the prime minister at his office in New Delhi, the Cardinals described the talks as "very positive and friendly" and added "there is no enmity between the government and Christian community."
They said their interaction with the prime minister was not a political one and Modi told them that "this is your home and anybody can come here" for dialogue.
The top Catholic priests said they see it as "a refreshing expression from the part of the government." "It was very positive…He was relaxed and he was friendly also," Cardinal Oswald Gracias told reporters after meeting Modi. Cardinal Gracias said during the interaction they "mentioned" tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy's arrest.
The prime minister was "sympathetic" but he said "the government does not want to interfere too much in the working of investigation agencies." Swamy is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. Swamy, 83, who is suffering from various health issues including Parkinson's disease, was arrested by NIA on October 8 last year.
A church spokesman said Modi responded positively to the church's long standing demand for extending an invitation to the Pope to visit India. "He (the prime minister) may be looking for an appropriate time," Cardinal Alencherry said responding to a query on the demand placed before the prime minister.
The Cardinals also requested the prime minister about an equitable distribution of the minority funds. "The PM said he will look into the ways and means of doing it in a just way," they said.
During their interaction with Modi, they also raised the issue of difficulties faced by people living in high ranges, part of Western Ghats in Kerala, due to man-animal conflicts and implementation of various environmental laws in the ecologically sensitive areas in the hills. They also raised the Church's long standing demand for reservation for Dalit Christians.
The Catholic priests thanked Mizoram Governor PS Sreedharan Pillai for organising the interaction with the prime minister.