• Century old All India Catholic Union holds its first Virtual Annual General Meeting, elections deferred by a year.
  • Catholic community stands in solidarity with the poor, who have been marginalized even more in the Covid lockdowns.
  • Digital divide, minority rights worrisome in New Education Policy.

Media Release
Mumbai, Aug 18 :  Catholic Bishops Conference of India secretary general Archbishop Felix Machado has called upon the community to strengthen its solidarity with the poor. We must rid ourselves of the understanding, even in the Church, that “The poor is ‘insignificant’, a non-person, without any rights, an obstacle to society”, the Bishop said inaugurating the first ever Virtual Annual General-body Meeting of the century old All India Catholic Union on 16th August 2020.

It is a concern the way ‘globalization’ is progressing; that lakhs of people are considered ‘useless objects’ because they are used and thrown away by the economic system. Pope St John Paul II and Pope Francis had stressed that foreign debt, with manipulated taxes and interests of the creditors, should be cancelled, he said.

Archbishop Machado, who heads the church in Vasai diocese, dismissed the targeting by vested interests. “We are Indians and at the same time Christians. The two can neither be separated nor can they be identified. We owe allegiance to both because our identity is to be ‘Indian Catholic’. As Indian citizens all Indians are equal to us in dignity before God; and as Catholics, all people in the world are equal to us in dignity”.

The Church, he said, has clearly pronounced its desire to dialogue with people who belong to all religions, and who belong to none. We are to own values of peace, justice, freedom, not just as means to our social commitment, but they must inspire methods to form a human society respectful of the rights of all.

The AICU general body renewed the term of the principal office bearers of the Union and the Working Committee for another year in view of the peculiar situation created by the pandemic. The office bearers are National President Mr. Lancy D Cunha, National Vice President Engineer Elias Vaz, Secretary general Mr. Anthony Chinnappan, and Honorary Treasurer, Mr. Alexander Anthony.

The Ecclesiastical Advisor of AICU, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bengaluru participated in the AGM.

Among the major issues taken up in the general discussion were the continuing attacks and targeted hate against the Christian community, the issues raised by the new National Education Policy and the erosion of civil rights in the cover of the Covid lockdown.

The New Education Policy has been critiqued by the CBCI and the AICU when it was published online. AICU was part of the delegation that met the Union Minister for Human Resource development last year. While the NEP extends education to three-year olds, and assures primary teaching in the mother tongue, it has still not addressed the concerns of the people of Tamil Nadu, for instance, on the issue of main languages. Among other major problematic issues in the NEP are increasing the distance which village children, especially in tribal areas, may now have to travel to school. The AICU has demanded continuing consultations on the NEP and assurances that it will not violate the rights of states, religious minorities, apart from ensuring adequate budgetary provisions for universal education.

The All India Catholic Union supports the Catholic Bishops Conference of India resolve on Zero Tolerance for sexual crimes, moral turpitude and caste discrimination. All these are also punishable under national laws. The AICU has stood for expeditious trials in courts of law for those facing such charges. There should be no kangaroo courts, media trials, or social media insinuations that bring the entire Church and community in disrepute.

The community faces many serious challenges from militant religious nationalism, the impact of various policies including changes in environmental laws, and the situation brought about by the Corona Pandemic which call for a united response from the CBCI and the AICU. There is also need for collaboration not only with all other Christian denominations, but also with Civil society and the vast majority of like-minded people in all faiths, and among groups not professing any faith.

The All India Catholic Union, as one of the oldest faith-based people’s organosilicons in the country, commits itself to the defense of the Constitution of India and the rights of the poor and the marginalized it has always promoted Constitutional provisions for Dalits irrespective of their faith affiliations.

In the face of the restrictions on travel and meetings in the wake of the Corona pandemic, the meeting was held on a virtual platform, but saw an overwhelming and enthusiastic participation by members.

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