Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to invite Pope Francis to India during a meeting in New Delhi on Dec. 21.
Archbishop Thazhath, who was elected CBCI president last month at a biennial meeting in Bangalore, also conveyed Christmas greetings to the prime minister on behalf of the Church in India.
During the meeting, which was also attended by federal ministers V. Muraleedharan and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the prelate repeated a request made by his predecessor Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay to invite Pope Francis to India.
Both the ministers have political links to southern Indian Kerala state, the base of Archbishop Thazhath of Trichur.
Archbishop Thazhath repeated the request of former CBCI president Cardinal Oswald Gracia “to invite Pope Francis to India,” said a Dec. 21 press release issued by the bishops’ conference.
The prime minister replied that “he had already invited Pope Francis to India” and repeated the invitation to the pope “again personally when he met Pope Francis at the Vatican” on Oct. 31, 2021.
“The PM said that he would continue to invite Pope Francis and try to bring him to India,” the release said.
The prime minister also assured him that he would continue to support minorities, the release said, adding that Archbishop Thazhath requested Modi to address the plight of Christians who are facing increased persecution.
Modi, who attended the G20 summit in Rome in October last year, met Pope Francis at the Vatican and asked him to visit India.
After the brief meeting with the pontiff, Modi posted on social media: “Had a very warm meeting with Pope Francis. I had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him and also invited him to visit India."
“Thank you very much for your visit. I'm happy, I'm very happy,” a smiling Francis said as he grasped Modi's hand at the end of the visit, according to footage released by the Vatican. Modi replied: "I would like to see you in India."
Pope Francis has said he wants to visit India. The Vatican had even drafted a schedule for a papal trip several years ago, according to news portal Crux.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of the Latin-rite Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church, had previously met Modi in New Delhi on Jan. 19.
They apprised him of Christian concerns and called on him to invite Pope Francis to India, three years after the government failed to invite the pontiff against Catholic leaders' expectations.
Similarly, in March 2018 Cardinal Gracias, then president of the CBCI, met Modi and made the same request.
The last papal visit to India was made by Pope John Paul II in 1999.Reference : Bishops' chief urges Modi to invite pope to India - UCA News