India's First Dalit Archbishop Holds 'No Grudge' Over Predecessor's Attack

Once untouchable Dalits make up bulk of country's Christians

Marampudi Joji made history on April 30 when he became the first Dalit archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church in India.Joji was installed as Archbishop of Hyderabad, capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India, where he is now the leader of 90,000 Catholics. Ironically, however, the installation of Archbishop Joji was conducted by his predecessor, Archbishop Samineni Arulappa, who only weeks before caused much controversy by criticizing Joji's appointment in what some have seen as veiled prejudice against Dalits. Despite this, the installation went smoothly, and Archbishop Arulappa urged all present to cooperate fully with the new archbishop.The elevation of the 57-year-old Dalit bishop—one of three Dalits in the 180-strong Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI)—to the rank of archbishop is an important event for his church and for the entire Christian community of India. More than 60 percent of the nation's 16 million Catholics are Dalits; in Andhra Pradesh state more than 80 percent of Christians are Dalits.Once treated as "untouchables" in the India's caste-dominated society, Dalits (meaning "trampled upon" in Sanskrit) are even today often treated as "social outcasts" forced to live outside the rigid four-tier hierarchy of castes which Hindus believe has divine approval.Before the installation of the new archbishop, Catholic leaders were deeply embarrassed by the "unfortunate" remarks of Archbishop Arulappa, who retired last month. After announcing at a press conference on March 13 that Bishop Joji would succeed him, Archbishop Arulappa criticized the Vatican's choice. He told the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) that "Rome is being taken for a ride. Rome does not know the ground ...

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