Recently Vatican has promoted Bishop Marampudi Joji of Vijaywada as the Archbishop of Hyderabad to succeed Archbishop Arulappa. Bishop Joji is a dalit bishop from Andra Predesh. In India, there are 156 bishops in the Catholic church which has a population of 25 million.  Except 6 bishops, the rest of them are coming from the upper caste community. Even these six bishops were appointed very recently by Vatican through the pressure given by 20 million dalit Christians of India who form 75% of the total Catholic population. Yet in the Indian catholic church, both in the  hierarchy and in the structure, dalit Christians have no place at all. The whole Catholic structure has been invaded by the upper caste community. Vatican was totally ignorant of this fact.  It is only recently that the upper caste bishops unwillingly recommended six dalit priests as bishops in order to yield to the pressure of the dalit Christians. Generally Vatican accepted candidates proposed by the bishops in India but Vatican was totally ignorant of the fact that caste played the crucial role in the recommendation of the bishops.  For example: In Tamilnadu, out of 16 bishops, only three  are dalit bishops. 

Now the appointment of a dalit bishop as the archbishop of Hyderabad has irritated both Arulappa, the upper caste bishop  who is retiring after a lengthy period. The upper caste clergy and the people are furious over Vatican for promoting a dalit to a metropolitan area. One has to remember that in Andra Predesh, 85% of the Catholics are dalits. Yet dalits are not respected. The remarks of Arulappa betrays his caste fanaticism with which he ruled over his diocese all these years. He goes to the extent of condemning the decision of Vatican for promoting a dalit as an Archbishop for the first time. He has already set timeline that Joji would not even  last in Hyderabad for five years. Above all these, he has accused the dalit bishop Joji that he would work only for dalits. Is it not the reflection of his own strategy by which he has been supporting  his own caste men and women during his tenure? 

In fact, Arulappa was himself not a native of Andra Predesh. He hails from Velacherry, Tamilnadu,  from the archdiocese of Madras. He was an ordinary priest in the parish of Veperi. But he was directly promoted as the archbishop of Hyderabad. The only criteria for him was that he was an upper caste priest, belonging to the Naidu community. He was recommended by another upper caste bishop, Mark Gopu, a Reddi from Thatchoor  to continue the caste lineage.  Although Arulappa was an outsider,  the people of Andra Predesh accepted him as their Bishop. Now Joji, a native of Andra Predesh is appointed to succeed him. All the more, Joji is the first dalit archbishop appointed by Vatican in India. Vatican is at least realising her mistakes of the past and correcting her ways. Instead of welcoming  bishop Joji to the diocese, Archbishop Arulappa and his upper caste group are  maneuvering the situation. Is it not hypocrisy on the part of  Arulappa to have lived all his life with this kind of deep caste mentality? Is he not betraying his own Indian bishops who declared that caste discrimination is denial of Christianity and inhuman?  It is tragedy that  bishop Arulappa could not digest the fact of a dalit becoming as his successor. Was he truly a representative of Christ during his tenure as the bishop of Hyderabad? Was he merely an hypocrite, perpetuating caste mentality within the church? This is only a sample of larger issues with which the Indian church is struggling with. It reveals the fact how caste plays a vital role in the Catholic church of India. It indicates how the dalit Christians have been suffering martyrdom all these years in their own churches.  Even during this Jubilee year, on 23rd January 2000,  the Catholic Bishops Conference of India  asked every Christian  to eradicate untouchability and caste mentality  which is  a sinful reality".  Yet the shepherd sets a bad example for his flock to follow the footsteps of Jesus in our daily life. If so, how can the kingdom of  God will flourish in country that has several million non-Christians?

Below are articles published in North America and Asia about Bishop Arulappa 

Low-caste bishop's transfer in India brings mixed reaction
Source: Catholic News Service   or, March 29, 2000

Apointment First Dalit Bishop
Sources: Long Island Catholic Weekly, April 5th, 2000, New York, USA

(Please note: Out of 156 Catholic bishops in India, 150 bishops belong to the upper caste community. Only 6 bishops belong to dalit community. Out of 12,500 Catholic priests, only 600 are from dalit community. 75% members of the Indian Christian community are from dalit community . 25% of the Upper caste Christians (clergy, religious and laity)  have complete control over the dalit or untouchable Christians