Catholic Church

Pope's words not controversial

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 December, 1999, 12:00am

Your unusually distasteful editorial of November 8 and letters by Haresh I. Khushi and Venkat Sellappan (South China Morning Post, November 16 and 18, respectively), harshly criticised comments made by the Pope during his visit to India.

I am saddened by such outpourings of hostility for a man universally recognised as a promoter of human rights and peace.

There is nothing controversial in the Pope's words on conversion, unless one is prejudicially hostile to Catholicism.

The missionary activity of religions has been documented all over the world for thousands of years.

Christianity has been present in India for 2,000 years. How can anyone question the legitimacy of Catholic activity? 'Forced conversions' are not part of Catholic method nowadays.

Our model is Mother Theresa who served the poor without asking anything in return.

However, conversion still remains a legitimate option that must be left to the freedom of anyone.

According to some Indians, conversion to Christianity was one of the very few options left to the outcasts to affirm their dignity.

Haresh Khushi challenges Catholics, asking how they would feel if 'a Hindu group were to visit Vatican City and say that ultimate salvation only lay in them accepting Hinduism'.

Rome (where Vatican City is located) is the centre of Catholicism, nevertheless there are churches of the different Christian denominations and temples of different religions.

From there the Pope calls for inter-religious dialogue and organises practical activities to enhance it.

Just weeks ago he met with the Dalai Lama, who had a high profile visit in Italy.

The Dalai Lama also met Italian leaders, spoke in successful TV shows and to large crowds.

None had the idea of blaming him for the increasing number of Italians converting to Buddhism.

We have to learn to live in a pluralistic world, where everyone anywhere has the right to accept or refute a faith in an atmosphere of authentic religious freedom.