When the Pope says he has a right to evangelize — that is from his point of view. But from a Hindu viewpoint, what the Pope is saying is has the fundamental right to annihilate religion and replace it with the Catholic cult. Even Hitler would have said, he had the right to commit genocide on Jews. Both Hitler and the Pope are children of the same intolerant, hate mongering Christian religion. In the last bastion of ancient that the pope wishes to destroy.
Published: November 8, 1999
Pope Tells India His Church Has a Right to Evangelize
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
Published: November 8, 1999
Summoning all his moral authority, Pope John Paul II tried today to persuade leaders of other religions here that interfaith understanding should lead them to recognize the Roman Catholic Church’s right to evangelize.
”Religious freedom constitutes the very heart of human rights,” the pope, on a three-day visit to India, said at a interreligious gathering that included Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and representatives of several other faiths. ”Its inviolability is such that individuals must be recognized as having the right even to change their religion, if their conscience so demands.”
But that is an argument that many religious leaders in India accept only with difficulty. Christian conversions are at the heart of a political and religious dispute that has made the 79-year-old pope’s visit a tense one. Christian proselytizing is fuel for Muslim fundamentalists, but it is also a source of uneasiness between the pope and some of his more moderate and like-minded religious peers.
”Conversions are a fundamental right,” Samdhong Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk who is the speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, said after leaving the podium he shared with the pope. ”But what we fear is that between indoctrination and anybody’s inner-consciousness to choose his religion, there is a clean line.”
”Any kind of action to encourage, or to persuade or to motivate in favor of any particular religion, that is a form of conversion that we as Buddhists cannot recommend,” the monk said.
All the religious leaders who met with the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in a lecture room in the Palace of Science here praised the pope’s efforts to promote mutual respect and joint responsibility for addressing social ills. Shri Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, a New Delhi rabbi, draped a Jewish prayer shawl around the pope.
To fervent applause, Shankaracharya Madhavananda Saraswati, a moderate Hindu leader who has criticized fundamentalist protests against the visit, clasped the pope’s hand and held it high in the air, like tennis partners celebrating a Wimbledon doubles victory. Afterward, however, the Hindu leader also expressed private misgivings about Christian evangelization.
He said later that Hindus could not really ever be diverted from their original faith: ”Religion comes from the heart. Something may change outwardly, but what is inside remains with the human being forever. That does not change.”
The pope, who came to India to close a synod of Asian bishops, has declared the evangelization of Asia, where Catholics remain a tiny minority, to be one of the church’s top priorities for the next millennium. He said it was a ”mystery” why Christ is largely unknown on the continent and added, ”The peoples of Asia need Jesus Christ and his Gospel.”
In India, however, Hindu fundamentalists accuse Christian missionaries, who are most active in poor rural and tribal areas, of preying on the most susceptible in society — buying their souls with education, medical aid and economic assistance.
Anti-Christian attacks by Hindu fundamentalists, often encouraged by political extremists, have increased dramatically in the last two years, with more than 150 recorded incidents of church lootings, beatings, rapes and killings. In Orissa, the state that was recently devastated by a cyclone, a missionary and his two young children were killed in January.
The pope came to India with two agendas: He preached ardently for religious tolerance for all faiths, but also instructed his own to convert new followers. To even the mildest leaders of other religions, the two messages do not easily blend.
”Religious people are more busy with increasing the number of their followers rather than paying attention to the challenges that beset religion,” Acharya Mahapragya, head of the Jain faith, said at the podium. Speaking through a lavender-colored surgical mask — Jains are Hindus who revere all forms of life and veil their speech to prevent their breath from destroying living micro-organisms — he was the only leader, besides the pope, to address the issue of conversions publicly.
In the current climate, some Indian Catholics say, their simplest acts of charity are misunderstood. ”We help people with scholarships and medical aid,” said Bartholomew Abraham, 40, a businessman who traveled almost 1,500 miles by train to see the pope. ”If we were really bribing converts, after 2,000 years we wouldn’t still only be 2 percent of the population.”
The pope wants church leaders to adapt their pastoral style to suit the culture and customs of their native lands, and he showed the way today by presiding over a colorful sitar Mass for 40,000 worshipers in Nehru Stadium. The Mass coincided with the most important Hindu celebration of the year, Diwali, the festival of light, which was noisily celebrated all over New Delhi with fireworks. At the Mass, under a huge abstract poster of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, women in brown and gold saris danced before the altar while a choir of sitar-players performed Indian-style hymns.
Fearing disturbances during the Pope’s visit, the government tightened security throughout the city, bringing in 3,500 armed paratroopers to assist the city’s 55,000 police officers. Protests near papal venues were banned, and would-be demonstrators swiftly arrested.
But there were odd lapses. Before the Pope arrived, his bulletproof popemobile was parked, unguarded, at an entrance to the stadium, as people streamed past. Anyone carrying a ticket to the Mass could have slipped an explosive under the vehicle before passing through security.
At the altar, however, scrutiny was far more intense. One top-ranking Vatican official, who wore a cassock and had all the right credentials, was repeatedly stopped and searched by zealous security officers, a Vatican official noted. India is no stranger to assassinations by people in close proximity to the victim, including the killing of Indira Gandhi by one of her own bodyguards.
Bhai Manjit Singh Sahib, a representative of the Sikh faith, was delayed by security officers, who would not allow him to enter unless he surrendered his sword. After 25 minutes, he prevailed, walking in carrying a gleaming, four-foot silver sword, which he placed on the desk before him.
”The sword is a symbol of my religious authority,” he said indignantly after the event. ”It is not a question of security; it is a religious symbol, and I carry it with me everywhere.”
John Paul, who has symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and other ailments, looked weak and physically spent on much of the trip. Usually, the Vatican is tight-lipped about the pope’s condition. But a pamphlet about his visit prepared by the archdiocese of New Delhi described with unusual candor some of the precautions taken to accommodate the pope’s ”poor health.”
The guidebook proudly described the ”elevator platform” built behind the altar ”as he is unable to walk well or climb too many steps.” It described the chemical toilet installed for his use during the three-hour Mass event, as well as special papal thrones to enable him ”to restrict the trembling of his arm.” It also explained that the seat was specially designed to allow the pope to rise without assistance.
The passage concluded, ”An ambulance and medical staff will be on standby just behind the main altar throughout the ceremony.”