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India favorable to pope's visit, bishops say

Prelates met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi but details are 'confidential'

India favorable to pope's visit, bishops say

Church leaders meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Feb. 7 in New Delhi. (Photo by Father George Kannanthanam)

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi
India

February 9, 2017

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Three Indian cardinals met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss a possible visit to the country by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Indian bishops' conference, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay who head India's largest archdiocese, and Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, met with the prime minister Feb. 7 in New Delhi.

"The prime minister informed [us] that the government holds a favorable attitude toward the pope's visit to India," the bishop's press release said without giving any further details of the meeting.

Federal External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had extended an invitation to the pope to visit India when she visited the Vatican during Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta's canonization in September 2016.

Pope Francis had said in October 2016 that he would "almost certainly" visit India in 2017.

Social media speculated that the meeting was to finalize the dates and places for Pope Francis to visit and named places such as Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), where Saint Teresa lived and worked for the the poorest of the poor. Other places suggested included the national capital New Delhi and Mumbai, where Bombay archdiocese is based. 

A source close to the prime minister's office told ucanews.com that the meeting was of a "confidential nature" as it discussed sensitive issues such as government steps to secure freedom for kidnapped Father Thomas Uzhunallil.

The 58-year-old Salesian missionary was abducted from the Missionaries of Charity home for the aged in Yemen on March 4 2016 after militants shot and killed 16 people, including four nuns.

Pope Paul VI became the first pope to visit India in 1964. Saint Pope John Paul II first visited India was in 1986 for ten days when he toured various parts of the country. Pope Paul  visit the India again in 1999 when he promulgated a document that closed the Synod of Bishops for Asia.

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