Ahead of the general elections in India in April, Church officials have issued pastoral guidelines asking Catholics to reject candidates who espouse certain ideologies and vote for guardians of secularism and democracy.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, joined other regional bishops in issuing a set of guidelines. The latest comes from the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, a regional forum of bishops in southern India, favouring candidates who respect the country’s secular constitution and related institutions.
It is due to be read out in all Catholic parishes in Kerala on March 31. While it offers guidance and advice, it also stresses that the Church does not favour any specific political party or ideology.
The circular, printed in the local Malayalam language, entreats parishioners to support candidates who are committed “to the values of secularism and democracy” and who will work for the “integral development and unity of the nation.”
The message comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is seeking a second term by placating Hindu voters and sensibilities.
Critics say the BJP leaders plan to amend India’s secular constitution to align it with Hindu nationalism and create a Hindu nation if voted into power, even though the party fielded two former Christian pastors for the state elections in November.