“Catholics are called to vote responsibly”: this is the appeal launched to the Indian faithful by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), in a pastoral letter issued on the occasion of the general elections.
As Fides News Agency reported March 20, 2019, the Cardinal, at the head of the Archdiocese of Bombay, has invited Catholics to “elect leaders who listen to people, understand their needs and respond effectively. I urge every community to discern what is best for our country. We must vote with judgment.”
In the letter, Cardinal Gracias invites people to “exercise their vote as a sacred obligation that is due to the country…we hope our community can contribute to the future of our nation.”
The President of the CBCI reiterates that the Church does not identify with or support any political party.
Recognizing the contribution of the last government to the enormous progress made by India in recent decades, the Cardinal notes that “this has generated great hope for the future”. At the same time, he notes, we need to worry about the widening gap between rich and poor, the conditions of workers, and the great stress among farmers. Furthermore, “ethics is losing primacy as the guiding principle of society. The economy seems to be the driving force behind every decision. India is a spiritual nation, yet God is slowly being pushed to the periphery.”
The Cardinal cites seven useful aspects for a good political leader: to work for an economy that seeks to help the poor; ensure a safe environment for everyone, especially women and children; safeguard the rights of tribal peoples; take care of the Dalits (or “untouchables”); promote community harmony; encourage a spirit of national integration; protect the environment. The letter ends with an appeal to Catholics in the country to accompany the electoral process with prayer.
The general elections will be held, according to the various states of the Federation, in seven phases, from April 11 to May 19 to elect 543 members of the “Lok Sabha”, the lower house of the Indian Parliament. The result of the vote will be declared on May 23rd. The Indian electorate is about 900 million people. About 80 percent of the Indian population is Hindu. Muslims make up almost 15% of the population, while Christians are 2.3 percent, alongside other religious minorities.