Will not cooperate with govt until Saji Cherian withdraws Manipur remark: Archbishop Cleemis

Archbishop and Kerala Catholic Bishop Council (KCBC) president Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis. Photo: Screen grab/ Manorama News

Archbishop and Kerala Catholic Bishop Council (KCBC) president Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis slammed the State's Cultural Affairs Minister Saji Cherian for criticising Christian priests for their alleged silence on the issue of Manipur violence during the Christmas programme organised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his official residence in New Delhi.

The Archbishop stated that the Church will not cooperate with State government on any matter until the Minister withdrew his remarks and offered an explanation. "The Minister's remarks are disrespectful and lacking in common sense. I'd like to officially declare that the KCBC will not cooperate with State government until the statement is withdrawn," he said.

"Christian leaders are often invited by political dignitaries including Chief Minister, Prime Minister and Governor for discussions. We often accept such invites. Political parties cannot dictate the terms for church," he added.

Meanwhile, CPM State Secretary MV Govindan said that he will examine the Church's resentment and take necessary steps to resolve it. 

"Minister Saji Cherian's remarks do not echo the sentiment of the party. It was just a comment made during a speech. If the church is discontent, we shall examine the matter," he said.

KCBC spokesperson Father Jacob Palackapilly had earlier lashed out at the Minister for his controversial remarks. He said that it is not the role of political parties to dictate the political stance of Christians. He questioned the ministers' motive behind linking the Christian community's participation in the Prime Minister's event to a specific political affiliation.

Palackappilly clarified that the Christmas programme was a reception organised by the Prime Minister to discuss the services provided by Christians in the country. He urged against adopting a negative stance on the matter and highlighted the participation of Christian priests including Bishops' as part of their commitment to the nation.

Saji Cherian's remark was that some bishops were thrilled when the BJP invited them for a feast and they forgot the Manipur issue when they ate grape juice and cake. Saji Cherian said that the bishops who went to the banquet did not talk about Manipur and it was not an issue for them. While inaugurating the CPM local committee office in Alappuzha Punnapra North, the minister made a strong criticism.

During an interaction with the members of the Christian community at his residence on Christmas, Modi had heaped praise on the minority community for its role in the freedom movement and in various fields like healthcare and education, and said the country proudly acknowledges its contribution. 

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