A Catholic Bishop in Kerala has stoked controversy by recommending the Communist Party of India (CPI) to give election ticket to a church-backed candidate ahead of the upcoming legislative elections in the state.
As per reports, Bishop Jacob Manathodath wrote a ‘confidential letter’ on January 11 to CPI State Secretary Kanam Rajendran, endorsing the candidature of a Catholic industrialist named Issac Varghese. The Catholic Bishop assured the CPI leader that the Christians would support the Communist party if Varghese is handed an election ticket from the Mannarkkad constituency in Palakkad district.
Catholic Church distances itself from Bishop
The matter came to light after the letter was leaked to the media, thereby prompting people to question the political leanings of the Church and the Bishop. While speaking about the controversy, one Congress supporter Mathew Xavier said, “A bishop indeed has every right to choose his party, but interfering in the nomination of a political party with his recommendation is not appreciated.”
While brushing the controversy aside, the Deputy Secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), Father Jacob Palakappilly has said that the Church maintains adequate distance from all political parties. He said that it has been the long-standing position of the Church and Bishop Jacob’s comments are his personal views. Despite social media criticism, the Bishop did not explain the reason for writing such a letter.
Stance of catholic Church on Communist Parties
Ahead of the upcoming polls for 140 seat State Assembly, several political parties are reaching out to religious leaders in a bid to consolidate their vote bank. Traditionally, the Catholic Church has opposed the idea of Christians voting/supporting the Communist parties due to their underlying philosophy of atheism.
As such, Bishop Jacob Manathodath’s letter seems to be a deviation from the traditional political discourse of the Church. Christians constitute 18% of Kerala’s population and are believed to play a crucial role in determining the political fortunes of the new government. The Christians in the State have conventionally supported the Congress party.