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Bishops request Indian government to invite Pope Francis
New Delhi, 22 February 2014: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has requested the Indian government to invite Pope Francis to visit India.
A formal letter with the request was handed over to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday by CBCI Deputy Secretary General Father Joseph Chinnayan along with federal Surface Transport and Highways Minister Oscar Fernandes.
The prime minister told the delegation that his government would do whatever needed to invite the Pope to India. Singh also said that Pope Francis is an outstanding personality of modern times and India would be honored by the visit of such a great person, a press release from the CBCI headquarters said.
The press release also said that four cardinals from India had on various occasion invited the Pope to the country. Pope Francis, who would be completing one year in the office on March 13, has shown interest in such a visit. “The Pope being the head of the State of Vatican, a formal invitation has to come from the government of India,” the press release explained.
The recently concluded CBCI plenary assembly at Palai, Kerala, discussed the prospectus of Pope’s visit to India and decided to approach the government to invite the Pope, who has made a big impact on the Church and the world, particularly as a protagonist for peace and for reaching out to the poor and the distressed.
Pope Francis has already indicated that he would be visiting Sri Lanka and South Korea.
Pope Paul VI was the first pontiff to visit India in 1964 to attend the Eucharistic Congress in Mumbai (then Bombay). Blessed Pope John Paul II visited India twice, in 1986 and 1999.
The first visit that began on February 1 lasted ten days. Calling it a pilgrimage to India, the Pope started from Delhi and toured Ranchi, Kolkata (then Calcutta), Shillong, Chennai (then Madras), Goa, Mangalore, Trichur, Kochi (then Cochin), Kottayam, Thiruvananthapuram (then Trivandrum), Vasai and Mumbai. The pilgrimage gave the Pope an opportunity to understand India’s diversity and unity.
The second visit lasted only four days and was limited to Delhi. The ailing Pope chose the Indian capital for the conclusion of the Asia Synod and the promulgation of the Asian Synod Document, “Ecclesia in Asia” (Church in Asia).