Archbishop of Delhi Anil Couto, in a letter said, 'As we look forward towards 2019 when we will have new government let us begin a prayer campaign for our country from May 13.' (Photo: Youtube screengrab)
New Delhi: The Archbishop of Delhi, Anil Couto, in a letter addressed to all churches of the national capital, has asked them to start a campaign of fasting and prayers ahead of the 2019 general elections, citing the "turbulent political atmosphere" threatening democracy and secularism in the country thereby kick starting a political controversy.
"We are witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our constitution and the secular fabric of our nation," the Archbishop’s letter said.
According to a report in NDTV, the letter further said, "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 new government let us begin a prayer campaign for our country from May 13..."
"I request that we observe a day of fast every Friday of the week by forgoing at least one meal and offering our penance and all our sacrifices for our spiritual renewal and that of our nation. Moreover, I earnestly request that we organize an hour of Eucharistic adoration every Friday at a convenient time in all our parishes, religious houses and institution specifically praying for our nation. During this Adoration the enclosed Prayer may be recited," the letter added.
Reacting to the letter, Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, said: "PM is working towards inclusive growth without discriminating while breaking barriers of religion and castes. We can only ask them to think with progressive mindset."
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue Rakesh Sinha termed the move as a "direct attack on Indian secularism and democracy".
"This is a direct attack by the Church on Indian secularism and democracy, and this is a direct intervention by the Vatican as these Bishops are appointed by the Pope. Their accountability is not to India but to Pope," Sinha said.
"Another big reason for this is after the formation of the Prime Minister Modi's government, church-oriented NGOs, received less money due to stricter laws. The Church organisations used to take this money for a variety of cause but in reality, utilise this only for religious conversions. They want a government to be made so that their conversion business flourishes," Sinha added.
Sinha also took to Twitter to vent his thoughts on the matter.
BJP’s spokesperson Shaina NC told news agency ANI, "It is wrong to try and instigate castes and communities. You can tell them to vote for right candidate or party but to suggest to vote for one party and not another and term yourself as secular versus pseudo-secular is unfortunate."
The letter was sent with a prayer that he said must be read at masses on Sunday.
However, denying any political motive in the prayer, the Archbishop’s office said, "The Archbishop's letter is not political, neither it is against the government or against the honourable Prime Minister."
"Misinformation should not be spread. It’s just an invitation for prayers, and such letters have been written in the past too," said Robinson, secretary to Archbishop of Delhi.
(With ANI inputs)