New papal nuncio arrives in India

He is expected to prepare for a possible visit by Pope Francis to the Hindu-majority country
New papal nuncio arrives in India

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, receives the new Apostolic nuncio to India, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro in New Delhi Feb. 16. (Photo by the Indian bishops' conference)

The new apostolic nuncio to India and Nepal, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, arrived in New Delhi on Feb. 16 and is expected to prepare for a possible Pope Francis' visit to India in 2017.

Top officials from the Indian bishops' conference, including its president, Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, were at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport to meet the Vatican diplomat.

Archbishop Diquattro took over from Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, whom ‎Pope Francis transferred to Poland as Apostolic Nuncio, in August 2016. The Apostolic Nunciature‎ to India and Nepal is based in the Indian capital New Delhi. 

The new nuncio's arrival comes months after Pope Francis said he "almost certainly" would visit the country in 2017. The leadership of the Catholic Church met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Feb. 7 and later said that "India is favorable" to a papal visit.

"The pope is invited to India and we hope that the new nuncio will represent the Holy See here and will do the preparatory work for the visit," said Bishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad.

The new job will be Archbishop Diquattro's first in an Asian country, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, told However, "he is so well updated about India and its culture. He will be an inspiration for us," he said.

Before coming to India, Archbishop Diquattro visited colleges and religious communities where Indian priests and people reside in Rome and acquainted himself with the Indian culture.

"With his experience and abilities, he will be an excellent link between the Indian government and the Vatican," Bishop Mascarenhas said.

The nuncio will deal with Christian leaders in India who continue to complain that the government follows a pro-Hindu policy at the expense of Christians and other religious minorities.

"The Indian episcopal conference is the fourth biggest in the world and being in such an important country, we hope the nuncio will foster good relations between the Indian church and the Vatican," Archbishop Bharanikulangara said.

Archbishop Bharanikulangara, who was part of the Vatican's diplomatic service, said the "very good relationship between different churches in India and the Vatican would be further strengthened" with the help of the new nuncio.

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