New Delhi: The archbishop of Delhi, Anil Couto, has claimed that a “turbulent political atmosphere” in the country posed a threat to India’s constitutional principles and secular fabric, and appealed to followers of his faith for a “prayer campaign”.
However, as he faced criticism from BJP leaders, the archbishop today said his comments were not directed at the Narendra Modi government.
Couto had written a letter to all parish priests and religious institutions in the Delhi archdiocese a few days before the May 12 Karnataka elections.
The archbishop, in his letter, said, “We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere, which poses threat to democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and the secular fabric of our nation.”
Reacting to the letter today, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh affirmed that India does not discriminate against anybody on the basis of religion or sect, and such things will never be allowed in the country.
Referring to the 2019 General Elections, Couto had asked for a “prayer campaign” for the country from May 13, marking the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima.
“It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time, but all the more so when we approach the General Elections.
“As we look forward towards 2019, when we will have a new government, let us begin a Prayer Campaign for our country from May 13, which marks the anniversary of the Apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima…” the letter read.
It also asked for organising an eucharistic adoration every Friday in all parishes and religious institutions, specifically to pray for the nation.
Facing criticism from BJP leaders and ministers of the Modi government over the letter, Couto said, “What I have said is spend time once a week for our nation and especially because elections are coming and government concerns us, all of us.”
“So, it is not in anyway pertaining to the government of Mr. Narendra Modi or anybody else,” he told a news channel.
Further, Cuoto said that the letter keeping in mind “all that is happening in the country” also referred to next elections and the government.
“Elections concern us. Therefore, when we talk, we talk about the elections because the government concerns us. We can not be apart from the government.
“We pray that we have such a government that cares for the freedom of the people, rights and welfare of the Christian of community,” he said.
The format of the prayer suggested by Couto stated: “May the ethos of true democracy envelop our elections with dignity and the flames of honest patriotism enkindle our political leaders.”
It also aimed to “protect” legislatures as place of discerning minds, raising judiciary as the hallmark of integrity, prudence and justice and keeping print, visual and social media as the channels of truth for edifying discourses.