Bishops urged to reach out to untouchables
Bishops in India have been told the Church must “move away from being content with doling out some schemes and programs” for Dalits – those at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste system formerly known as “untouchables” – and work to develop “a deeper understanding of the causes and manifestations of deprivation, discrimination and exclusion of Dalit Christians within the Church, by the larger society and by the State.”
Jesuit Fr A. Maria Arul Raja, a professor of Religious Studies at the Jesuit Theology Centre in Chennai, spoke about the Church and Dalits at the biennial meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India taking place this week in Bangalore.
India has instituted several public programs – similar to affirmative action in the United States – to help the Dalit population, which makes up between 15 and 20% of the country’s population, but widespread discrimination and marginalization continue.
Pope calls fast day
Pope Francis has announced that the first Friday of Lent will be a day of prayer and fasting for peace given the many ongoing conflicts throughout the world, particularly those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
“Facing the tragic continuation of conflicts in different parts of the world, I invite all the faithful to a special day of prayer and fasting for peace on February 23, the Friday of the first week of Lent,” the Pope said.