Letter to His Holiness Pope John Paul II

Dr. M. Mary John
President of DCLM

Dalit C.Arokiadoss
General Secretary

Date 7.10.99

Dr. M. Mary John
President, DCLM,
Suprabath Apartment,
22, Perumal Koil West Mada Street,
Saidapet, Chennai - 600 015.
India. (Tel: 091-44-3711138)


His Holiness The Pope John Paul II
Palazzo Apostolic 
00120 Citta Del Vaticano 
Rome, Italy.

Your Holiness and our Most Reverend Father,

Sub: Request for an appointment for a delegation of our Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) during your India visit in November 1999, to meet you and make representation on the problems of Dalit Christian in our Catholic Church in India.

Our Warmest fraternal greetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are profoundly happy to know that your Holiness is visiting India in November, 1999. We are eagerly expecting for the day. Your visit is significant at this moment when we are close to the Great Jubilee 2000 of the Birth of our Lord Christ, who came to liberate and serve the oppressed, out-caste and the marginalized peoples of the world.

The main message of Christ, viz. the liberation of the oppressed and life to the poor, has to be relevantly and manifestly brought out in India during the Jubilee. It means it has to be a very special occasion, first and foremost, to the Dalits and tribals who are the most oppressed and poorest of the poor sections in India and who suffer murderous violence even today.

More particularly the problem of discriminations and inequality of Dalit Christians within the church has to be explicitly and adequately taken up in the Jubilee year. We hope and appeal that your Papal visit to India strengthens this message in our church and in our society as well. This will also bring hope to all the Dalits in India who still struggle for human dignity, freedom, liberation, development. Casteism is replicating in the Church, even more strongly when it comes to sharing power and rights with the Dalits.

our delegation from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement has to get a chance to speak to you and that will be greatly promising to Dalit Christians. Your listening to our representation will bring confidence and hope to them and also to all the Dalits in India, who always look forward to the pioneering role of the world Christianity for their liberation, human rights and development.

It is a problem of about 20 million Dalit Christians who form a great majority within the church and of about 200 million Dalits in the whole of India.

We have already made requests and appeal for the appointment with your Holiness through your Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India, the president of CBCI Most Rev. Alan D. Lastic, Cardinal Most Rev. Lourduswamy D. Simon, the Secretary of the CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC Most Rev. A.M. Chinnappa, the Executive Secretary of the Commission Rev. Fr. S. Lourduswamy and others concerned.

As we have spelt out in our letter to the Pro-Nuncio to India (copy enclosed for your close attention) , your visit to India will have great meaning and relevance if it brings new hope and life to Dalit Christians. We have waited and appealed for long with patience with our Catholic church authorities in India, but with very little response. Now we are left to struggle for our dignity and rights. At this juncture we are extremely anxious to meet your Holiness and present our cause.

We wish to bring to your Pontifical attention that the oppression and persecution of the Dalits within the Church is as serious and appalling as the oppression and persecution of the religious minorities in the country. So, both the problems need equal concern.

The celebrations of the Great Jubilee 2000 by the Church in India will loose essential meaning and relevance without an open, honest and determined effort to solve the long standing problems of Dalit Christians within the church and ensure their equality in all forms. We have to bring to your kind attention the sad and serious failure of the Indian Catholic Church in this regard. It failed to take up the Dalit Christians cause seriously through policy and administrative measures even though they have lost all the Indian Constitutional safeguards, reservations etc. guaranteed for other Dalits. Your Pontifical intervention is necessary for this at this moment, that will set the vision of the church in India for the now Millennium. This will do well for the growth of the Church in India and to the Indian society as a whole.

In this situation the inauguration of the Jubilee 2000 in India has to be also an occasion and of evolving and inaugurating a national agenda by the church for the final and total emancipation, equality and empowerment of Dalits in the church. Some fundamental questions have to be raised on this as a real exercise of renewal during and after the Jubilee. Otherwise the struggle by Dalit Christians will be more in the future. We wish for peaceful solution but that has to come from the authorities and the powers that be.

We do not know what is being communicated to you officially by the church authorities on the situation of Dalit Christians in the Church. Or whether you have ever been appraised of it. The matter now needs our direct representation to you. Last time itself when your Holiness visited India in 1986, there was attempt to meet you by some of us, Dalit Christian leaders. But it was carefully and vehemently prevented by the Church authorities here.

We are quite aware of your significant and revolutionary messages and steps for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation for some historical crimes and mistakes; For example, on past events such as the "Holocaust'', the "Crusades" and the "Inquisition", the "Apartheid" in South Africa, etc. We are very hopeful that in the same spirit your message and intervention measures will bring concrete solutions to the Dalit Christians problem in the Catholic church in India. Your intervention is crucial and necessary.

So, we earnestly request for an appointment with your Holiness so that our delegation could meet and represent the matter directly. The Dalit Christians has to be given a chance to speak for themselves, even though you may receive other feelers about their problem. It has become necessary and inevitable for us who are experiencing the discriminations.

We will submit to you a detailed memorandum on the oppression, exclusion and discriminations suffered by Dalit Christians and our concrete proposals and suggestions to eradicate these radically and rapidly. We have had enough of Theological reflections and verbal gestures on our problem.

Things cannot stop there. Various policy level, structural and administrative changes have to be made and implemented to set right the structured inequalities, for which the intervention of your Holiness, your good office, and of the world Generals/Superiors of the Religious Congregations is necessary. Of course we also face the problem outside the Church and we appeal for your intervention in this in whatever ways possible.

Once again appealing and requesting for an appointment to meet you and thanking you our Holy Father,

We remain,

Yours Devotedly in Christ,

Prof. Dr.M. Mary John, President
Dalit Christian Liberation Movement
Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry, India


Copy to

1. The Secretary of State, Vatican.

2 Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India, Delhi.

3. Cardinal Lourduswamy D. Simon, Vatican.

4 Most Rev, Alan D Lastic, President of CBCI, Delhi & Most Rev.Aruldoss James, President of TNBC, Chennai

5. Most Rev. A.M. Chinnappa, Chairman of CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC, Delhi.

6. Rev. Fr. S Lourduswamy, Executive Secretary, CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC, Delhi.

7. Rev. Fr A. Philomin Raj, TNBC Commission for SC/ST/BC, Trichy, India.

8. All the Bishops of India