CBCI demands reservation cover for Dalit Christians

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Kochi, Feb 25 (UNI) Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) President Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil today demanded an end to the ''discrimination'' being faced by Dalit Christians by extending reservation benefits to them.

Addressing a press conference here, Cardinal Vithayathil, who is also the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, said only Dailt Christians were being denied this benefit, while those belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist faiths were enjoying it.

It was high time that the Centre took a decision to end this ''injustice'' being faced by Dalit Christians, he added.

Expressing concern over ''atrocities'' on Christians in North India, especially Orissa, the Cardinal said the authorities should take stern steps to check this menace.

Referring to the poor living conditions of Christians in North India, he demanded that the Government set up a commission, similar to the Sachar Commission, to study their status and requirements.

Talking about the recent meeting of the 28th Plenary Assembly of the CBCI at Jamshedpur, Cardinal Vithayathil said that it focused on the theme 'Empowerment of Women in the Church and Society.' Among the major decisions taken to empower women within the Church structure was to frame a gender policy within an year by each Regional Bishops' Conference with time-bound action plans and monitoring mechanisms.

Based on these, the CBCI Gender Policy would emerge. focussing on at least 35 per cent (moving towards an ideal of 50 per cent) representation of women as office-bearers and members on parish and diocesan pastoral councils, and finance committees and in the ecclesiastical bodies at the local and national levels.

Asked if there was any proposal to ordain women priests in the Catholic Church, he said this was not discussed at the Jamshedpur meet. However, the Church was not in favour of ordaining women as priests, he added.

On the Church's contentious relationship with the Kerala Government, he said he was ready for talks with the Government on the issue of the minority communities' rights to run their educational institutions.

''I am prepared to hold open and honest talks with the Government on these issues. However, there has been no invitation from the Government for any talks so far,'' he added.

UNI ARC GD GS MSJ ND18378

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