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Oriental-Rite Church Alleges Communist Infiltration In Church Bodies


April 17 2007

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (UCAN) - The Syro-Malabar Church (SMC) has asked the communist government in a southern Indian state to stop its anti-Church campaigns.

"We warn the government that if it does not stop its anti-Church campaigns and anti-people policies, the Church will definitely react," says a statement from the Kerala state-based Oriental-rite Church.

The statement accused Kerala´s Marxist-led coalition government of violating democratic norms in order to control local self-government institutions. The government also threatens the judiciary through "ill-motivated political campaigns," it alleged.

The statement came at the end of the annual meeting of SMC diocesan officials. The April 12-13 meeting was held at SMC headquarters in Kochi, Kerala´s commercial hub, 2,595 kilometers south of New Delhi. Vicars general, chancellors and secretaries of diocesan councils from all 15 SMC dioceses in Kerala attended.

Bishop James Pazhayattil of Irinjalakuda, chairperson of SMC´s commission for clergy and Religious, presided and also signed the statement.

Father Mathew Chalil, vicar general of Tellicherry archdiocese, told UCA News on April 15 that government policies were not originally on the SMC meeting agenda.

"I initiated the discussion and all members expressed their concern," the priest said. Priests worry about increasing communist influence in the Church, he added.

"They have infiltrated Church organizations and bodies," he said, adding the communists then use the Church´s forums to campaign against the Church.

Many Church leaders are unaware of the communist presence in "our organizations. It´s going to be a great challenge for our faith in the future," Father Chalil said. He explained how communists have impressed Church leaders with simplicity and concern for the poor and taken advantage when the Church softens its position regarding their ideology.

Kerala has witnessed several Church-communist tussles since 1957, when communists formed the world´s first democratically elected communist government in the state. A Church-led stir led to the government´s dismissal in 1959.

"After 50 years, Church leaders have started sharing platforms with communists," Father Chalil observed. This, he added, has made Catholics believe the Church leaders were wrong in fighting communists.

The communists took advantage of this confusion and "distorted the facts with their vociferous campaigns," Father Chalil explained. Some Church leaders believe communists have mellowed over the years, and diluted their ideology. "But it´s a false impression," the priest asserted.

He regretted the Church has no tool to expose the communist agenda. In 1957, a Church newspaper Deepika (little lamp) voiced "our views," but now the communists control the newspaper.

"Now Deepika has become a tool" for the Marxists, said Father Chalil, it is "very unfortunate."

SMC spokesperson Father Paul Thelakat agreed the Church has no "effective tool" to fight the communist´s "anti-people policies." He said the communists promote "an unrealistic and irrelevant" ideology based on class struggle and atheism in Kerala.

Many Church leaders, Father Thelakat said, do not see the need to fight communist ideology. However, the government´s policies have shown communist leaders nurse an anti-Church bias, he said, adding, "this has disheartened Church leaders who are soft on communists."

Communist leaders say the Church has its own issues.

Vijayaraghavan, a communist member of parliament, says SMC priests´ allegations are baseless and biased. The communists have not infiltrated the Church, but "our ideology" is becoming popular among clergy and laity, he told UCA News.

"I don´t understand why they are worried about communist presence. They should worry more about criminals in the Church."