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Church, Left come closer in Kerala
George Iype in Kochi | July 05, 2004 20:11 IST
Forty-five years after a Church-led 'liberation struggle' in Kerala pulled down the world's first democratically elected Communist government, the Left parties and the Church in India are cozying up. And you have the Manmohan Singh government to thank for this unlikely occurrence.
Ever since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government came to power in New Delhi, senior leaders of the Indian Church have been 'praising' the Left parties.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of India has lauded the UPA government's common minimum programme as one that will "bring social justice, economic prosperity, and communal harmony".
In the past, the Left leaders' atheism and rigid ideologies have earned them the Church's wrath. In 1957, the Church led a 'liberation struggle' against Kerala's first communist government led by the late E M S Namboodiripad.
The Church's opposition was based on the belief that the Communists, who are atheists, would deprive it of control over its educational institutions. The agitation eventually led to Namboodiripad's government being dismissed by the Centre in 1959.
Since then, the Church and the Left have been "sworn enemies".
But these days you can see a sea change in the Church's approach to the Communists. Last week, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of the Syro-Malabar Church extolled the 'charity mission' of the Communist Party of India, Marxists.
"The CPI-M takes special care of the poor and the marginalized in India," Cardinal Vithayathil said. "Other political parties should emulate the CPI-M."
Inaugurating a palliative care unit in a hospital founded by the CPI-M in memory of the late trade union leader A P Varkey in Kochi, the cardinal extended what he called the Catholic Church's "whole-hearted support to the charitable programmes of the CPI-M". He also recalled how CPI-M-ruled West Bengal had been supporting the missions of Mother Teresa in Calcutta.
Cardinal Vithayathil is not alone in showering praise on the Left. CBCI president Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo of the Ranchi archdiocese and Bishop Thattunkal of the Cochin diocese have also appreciated the Communists in the last one week.
According to Bishop Thattunkal, the Communist parties and the Church need not hate each other any more. "The Church has no ill-will towards the Communists," the bishop told rediff.com, adding that the Church appreciates any political party that carries out welfare and developmental works for the people.
Cardinal Vithayathil's admiration for the Communist leaders has in turn earned him praise from the Left leaders.
But many Church leaders have been taken aback by the top hierarchy's sudden admiration for the Communists. "Yes, we are moving closer to the Communists because that is one party that has clear programmes for the poor and needy," a Church leader pointed out. "Maybe the feeling of friendship with the Leftists is because of the new Manmohan Singh government."
Church leaders maintain that Prime Minister Singh's recent announcement of special privileges for the minorities was "made possible because of the influence the Left Front has in the Congress-led government".
On Saturday, the prime minister proposed to establish a commission for minority educational institutions to provide direct affiliation of minority professional institutions with the central universities. He also announced the setting up of a national commission to enhance the welfare of socially and economically backward sections.
But senior Church leader Father Thomas Parathara said it is "wrong to say that the Church and the Left parties are in any new-found love."
Father Parathara told rediff.com, "The Church's mission is social and economic development of the people. We also want the political problems of the people to be take care of by the parties. We appreciate any political party that does good for the people and their development."
More reports from Kerala