CPI-M tries to patch up with church in Kerala

June 19th, 2009 - 7:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, June 19 (IANS) Stung by one of its worst electoral reverses in Kerala, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Friday made overtures to the Catholic church with whom the communists have had many run-ins during the three years in power.
Education Minister M.A. Baby and Health Minister P.K. Sreemathi spent an hour with Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis Catholicos, a senior bishop of the Malankara Catholic Church here.

The visit comes three days after Catholicos publicly said the church is ready for talks with the Left Democratic Front (LDF).

“The church is ready for discussions. We had taken some aggressive steps in the past (against LDF) and now is good (time) to have a free dialogue,” he said in a statement.

Reacting to the release, the CPI-M said that it is willing to have a “heart-to-heart talk with Christian leaders” to resolve all outstanding problems.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting, Baby said they had come to meet the bishop who recently celebrated his 50th birthday.

“We have assured the bishop that the various government departments will have a positive outlook towards the issues in the education sector,” Baby told reporters.

Ever since the LDF came to power in the state, it has been at loggerheads with the church. CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had in the past called a few bishops “despicious characters”, triggering vehement protests from the clergy and the Christians.

The government also tried to initiate changes in the fee structure and admission process of the professional colleges in which the church has a major stake. An association of college managements later got relief from the Supreme Court.

Christians constitute 23 percent of the 3.2 crore (32 million) population, of which the Catholic community accounts for more than 50 percent. The Malankara Catholic Church is said to have more than a million followers.

“The round of discussions that was held was on positive lines and we welcome this effort,” Catholicos said.

The CPI-M-led LDF faced one of its worst electoral defeats in the general elections winning just four seats in the state. In 2004, LDF had bagged 19 of the 20 seats.

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