Three Indian cardinals on January 19 met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and requested him to invite Pope Francis to the country.
Talking to reporters after the meeting in Delhi, the cardinals said the prime minister agreed to their request and promised to take a decision soon.
The cardinals are Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Confer-ence of India, George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Syro-Malankara Church leader Baselios Cleemis.
The meeting was part of the prime minister’s interaction with heads of various church, initiated by Mizoram Governor P S Sreedharan Pillai, a native of Kerala where assembly elections are due this year.
Cardinals said they have been asking for an invite to the Pope for quite some time and expressed the hope that it would be realized soon. In 2018 there was a growing demand for the Pope to be invited to the country when he visited two Asian neighbors, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Pope Francis had expressed a desire to visit India during his flight back from a trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan on Oct 2, 2016. He said he would “almost certainly” visit India and Bangladesh in 2017.
On February 7, 2017, three Indian cardinals, including Cardinal Gracias, had met Modi in New Delhi, to discuss the possibility of a papal visit. A bishops’ press release following the meeting said, “The government holds a favorable attitude toward the Pope’s visit to India.”
However, despite efforts by the bishops, the 2017 visit never materialized because of foot-dragging by the federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“It is overdue. We expect a decision from the PM soon,” said Cardinal Alencherry after the latest meeting with Modi.