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Catholic priest leaves ministry to join India's Hindu party

Father Rodney Borneo of Calcutta Archdiocese resigns to join the pro-Hindu BJP ahead of state elections

Catholic priest leaves ministry to join India's Hindu party

Father Rodney Borneo of Calcutta Archdiocese joined the BJP on March 9. (Photo supplied)

A Catholic priest in eastern India has put in his papers and joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that pushes Hindu nationalist ideology in the country.

Father Rodney Borneo of Calcutta Archdiocese took membership of the BJP on March 9 at a small function in Kolkata city, formerly Calcutta, capital of West Bengal state.

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta confirmed that he had received a letter from Father Borneo seeking to resign from the priesthood.

“We have received his letter of resignation. But in the Catholic Church decisions such as these have to follow a process. This resignation also will follow a process according to the laws of the Church,” Archbishop D’Souza told UCA News on March 10.

"However, we wish all the best in his future endeavors," the archbishop said. 

Father Borneo said he had also resigned as the principal of Loyola High School, an archdiocese-run school in the city.

“Yes, I joined the BJP … and plan to work with them and I’m ready to serve the people. I will fulfil whatever responsibilities will be given to me,” Father Borneo told UCA News on March 9.

He said he met Archbishop D’Souza on March 5 and tendered his resignation from the priesthood and also met the prelate on March 9.

“The matter of my resignation is with the archdiocesan officials. It is up to them to take appropriate action,” he said.

Father Borneo declined to comment about what made him join the BJP and refused to give any details about the reasons for his resignation from the priesthood.

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“I do have reasons for my decision. I don’t want to talk about them because that is between me and the archdiocese,” he said.

The BJP is supported by Hindu groups that are often accused of violently opposing Christians and missionary activities in most parts of India.

Father Borneo's decision comes as campaigns heat up ahead of elections to West Bengal’s 295-seat legislative house, scheduled for March 17 to April 29.

The BJP is attempting to unseat the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, a local party that fiercely opposes the BJP.

Some observers say the BJP encourages recruitment of known Christian leaders to help it shrug off its image as a party of Hindus and present itself as a secular party.

Hindutva, the predominant form of Hindu nationalism, is part of BJP’s declared ideology.

Local reports said Father Borneo is popular in Kolkata’s Kidderpore area and his membership is expected to help BJP politically.

The priest was reportedly close to the Trinamool Congress and visited the Vatican to attend St. Teresa’s canonization with party supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Sept. 4, 2016.

A report in the Times of India newspaper said the BJP’s state secretary Sabyasachi Dutta praised Father Borneo as a person “with exceptional qualities.”

“We will give him the responsibility of advising us on English-medium education,” Dutta said.

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