A group of Catholics in the state of Karnataka in southern India are publicly demanding that the next bishop appointed in the state be a "pure Kannadiga," a native speaker of Kannada, the state's principal indigenous language.

Members of the Karnataka Catholic Christian Kannada Forum (KCCKF) carried large crosses as they held a dharna (sit-in) at the gates of Archbishop's House in Bangalore, the state capital. The protest was held on May 18, the 76th birthday of Archbishop Ignatius Pinto, who is due to retire soon and has submitted his resignation letter to Rome.

"There are eight [Catholic] dioceses in Karnataka. But, we do not have even a single Kannadiga bishop," KCCKF president J. R. Pereira said. "The Kannadigas are treated as second-class members in the church. And [the Kannada language] gets the least priority even in church services."

The forum wrote to the Vatican in April demanding "the appointment of a mother-tongue Kannada-speaking priest as the archbishop of Bangalore". The forum also staged a demonstration outside the office of the chief minister of Karnataka, S. M. Krishna, and asked him in a memorandum "to interfere" in a "question of injustice to local language, local culture and the life of the local people".

However, Pinto said that the Kannadiga campaign was the work of only a "handful of people". Despite media reports, there was "no language row" in the archdiocese, and 99 percent of the people "do not have any complaints".

The issue at stake was not about language, the archbishop said. Rather the campaign was "part of a power struggle" by some priests and other people "to pressure the Vatican" as it chooses a new archbishop.

Pereira said a majority of the one million Catholics in the state were Kannadigas, ...

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