The demand for a separate Rite for Dalit Catholics is gaining momentum with many supporting it as a solution to caste-based discrimination in the Indian Church.
“If this can bring about much needed respect for the Dalit Catholics and wipe out that invisible line of casteism, I am for it. In fact, I will join the movement wholeheartedly and help in attaining the status being demanded,” says AC Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission.
Michael shared his thoughts with Matters India March 11, a day after the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) urged Pope Francis to create a Catholic Rite like the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches.
A press release from NCDC coordinator Franklin Caesar Thomas says, “We urge the Pope to recognize the Dalit Catholic Rite like Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Rites with all divine rights and property. According to Thomas, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer, the Rites in the Catholic Church are based on orientation and rituals.
Thomas also points out that Christianity does not have one cultural expression. “It also reflects different faces of the cultures and peoples that received the faith and allowed to take roots “with unwavering fidelity to the Gospel and the Church’s tradition.” If the Pope approves a new separate Dalit Catholic rite, he says it would show to the world that each group of people can pray to the God of Jesus Christ from their cultural riches and expressions without altering the unity of the Catholic faith.”
The new rite will adopt the character and traditions of various Dalit Catholic communities, the NCDC leader asserted.
Dalit Catholics in India are currently spread over Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches in the Catholic fold.
The Catholic Church is comprised of six different liturgical rites, and within them exist 24 particular Churches. These sui iuris (autonomous or self-governing) Churches are all in communion with one another in the Catholic Church and recognize the primacy of the pope.