Christians can expect more persecution
PANAJI, Oct 6: The head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Baselios Marthoma Mathews II has warned Christians in this country to expect further persecution, and has asked them to face it with fortitude.
"Persecution is the inevitable element of the growth of a religion. It has been the Christian heritage down the ages. I ask Christians not to worry about the persecution, but to bear the cross," the Archbishop said, when asked to comment on the persistent attacks against the minority group in India.
He pointed out too that the church in India went back 20 centuries, when St Thomas first established it in Kerala in the 1st century A D, and had been part of "nation-building", with many contributing to the country's independence.
The Church branched off later into three major groups, the Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox Christians. The Bishop, whose Orthodox Catholic church commands a following of 2.5 million people in India, the USA and Canada (which come under him) said also that he favoured a dialogue between the various branches of the Catholic church on issues that separated them to bring about a better understanding.
He was at the moment engaged in a dialogue with Pope John Paul II and was to meet him next month. It was "painful", he said, that the Indian Christians were divided. The Orthodox Church itself has splintered into 16 branches.
The Orthodox Church which has been praised by the Sangh Parivar for being "swadeshi", is independent of the Vatican, even though it considers itself Catholic (universal). The Bishop said he saw no conflict in this because his was an "indigenous church with every right to consecrate our own Bishops".
What mattered was that they all followed the teachings of Christ. The Bishop also refuted accusations of monetary inducements offered for conversions. He said no one was being forced to become a Christian and that foreign funds received by Christian organisations were being channelised mainly for educational, social and charitable purposes. .