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‘Anti-Pope’ news incites shutdown

- Prayer meet next week

Shillong, Feb. 21: Roman Catholic schools and colleges in the entire Khasi-Jaintia hills region of Meghalaya will remain shut on Wednesday as a mark of protest against a news report, published in a local vernacular daily, that supposedly demeaned Pope Francis.

There are over 3,000 schools and colleges run by the Catholic Church in the Shillong archdiocese, Nongstoin diocese and Jowai diocese. These three dioceses fall within the Khasi-Jaintia hills region.

However, college students, who have to appear for their examinations, have been exempted from the strike.

The secretary (education commission) of the Shillong archdiocese, Fr Richard Majaw, said the decision to shut the schools and colleges was taken after thorough deliberation.

The Catholic Association of Khasi and Jaintia Hills — a union of lay Catholics — has termed the report that was published on February 7 “derogatory” toward the head of the Catholic Church. Besides, it had offended the Catholic faithful of Meghalaya, the association said.

“The daily not only published an unsubstantiated, derogatory and malicious report but, according to the Catholic Association, projected the world’s Catholic Church leader in poor light,” the association had earlier said.

In a meeting held recently, the association decided to serve a pleader’s notice to the daily besides approaching the Press Council of India for redressal.

The Shillong archdiocese has intimated deputy chief minister Roytre Christopher Laloo, who is in-charge of the the education department, about the decision to shutdown schools on February 26.

Fr Majaw said a prayer meeting would be held at the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians in Laitumkhrah on Wednesday at 11am.

A “signature campaign” will be carried out in all the parishes located in the three dioceses on March 2 to condemn the news report, Fr Majaw said.

Time magazine had named Pope Francis — who was formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina — as its Person of the Year in 2013.

The recognition came just nine months after he was elected as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis was the first non-European Pope in the modern era, the first pontiff from South America, and the first Jesuit to be elected as the leader of a billion Catholic faithful.

“He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The septuagenarian superstar is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century,” Time had written in its announcement.