Church blow to 'atheist' parties

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By CITHARA PAUL
  • Published 26.07.10
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New Delhi, July 25: Even if his Bengal comrades had not forced his hand, Prakash Karat may well have needed a separate poll strategy for Kerala, it seems.

The Catholic Church in the southern state has issued a pastoral letter asking its flock to shun “atheist” parties and vote only for “God-fearing” candidates.

The letter, which does not name Kerala’s ruling CPM, also asks people not to be misled when the “atheist parties field God-fearing popular persons” as Independent candidates to garner Christians’ votes.

The circular, issued by the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, was read out in parishes across the state on July 18, Sunday.

In a state where Christians make up 20-25 per cent of the population, CPM leaders have been quick to criticise the letter as a “politically prejudiced” move, aimed at helping the Left’s opponents and securing the “narrow interests” of the Church establishment.

After panchayat elections in October, Kerala will hold Assembly polls next year for which the CPM will have a strategy distinct from its Bengal unit’s, Karat announced on Friday.

Kerala finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac said the Church letter was an attempt by the bishops to reduce elections to a “referendum on faith” at the cost of real issues. “We are not against religion but we will resist this move by religious leaders to interfere in politics,” he added.

The bishops defended the pastoral letter. “The Church has every right to make its faithful conscious about the threats and dangers to the faith. When we see a trap, it’s the duty of Church leaders to warn people about that,” said Fr Thelakkat of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council.

Of late, the Left has been putting up “Independent’’ minority candidates in minority-dominated areas, and the ploy has often been successful. However, its overall efforts to cosy up to the minorities have met with limited success, especially among Christians.