More than a hundred people belonging to Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), Dalit Christian People Federation (DCPF), and Dalits from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sivaganga marched from Viraganoor to the Archbishop of Madurai’s residence here on Saturday as a mark of protest against alleged discrimination in ordaining Dalits as priests in Sivaganga Diocese.
In particular, they demanded that G. Michael Raja, belonging to the Devendrakula Vellalar community, who has successfully passed out of seminary, be ordained as priest. They condemned the delay in the ordination despite Michael Raja passing out of the seminary around five years back.
Michael Raja, who also took part in the march on Saturday, was expelled from the seminary in 2011 along with five others on allegations of indiscipline. However, he said that he was later allowed to write the final examinations after 41 priests in Tamil Nadu wrote a letter in his support and the remaining five expelled seminarians confirmed that he did not commit any wrong.
“My expulsion itself was due to caste discrimination. Around 12 Dalit seminarians were expelled for frivolous reasons. The intention is not to ordain any Dalits as priest,” he claimed.
K. Samuel Raj, general secretary, TNUEF, said that though Devendrakula Vellalars constituted around 25 % of the Christian population in Sivaganga Diocese, not a single person had been ordained from the community since the formation of the Diocese 30 years back. “This cannot be seen as a coincidence. This is definitely a deliberate discrimination of Dalits within the Diocese,” he alleged.
He also alleged that other forms of discrimination against Dalits, like separate cemetery for Dalits, separate festivals and restrictions on pulling church cars on streets of Dalits during festivals, were also widely present in the Dioceses.
Since Archbishop of Madurai Antony Pappusamy, who is also the president of Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, was not present at the residence, the protesters submitted their petition to his representatives. After assurance of a meeting with the Archbishop on August 29, they left the venue.
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