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Pope makes controversial call for conversions in India

Pope John Paul II has told India's bishops that missionary activity should focus on converting people to Christianity.

The Pope's words came as the subcontinent's most prominent Hindu organisation repeated its claims that the Pope is interfering in India's affairs. It is the second time in recent weeks he has been criticised by Hindu nationalists.

Earlier this month, the Pope told bishops on their ad limina visit to the Vatican that Christianity separated from a proclamation of Jesus as the only Saviour "is no longer Christian".

"Any theology of mission that omits the call to a radical conversion to Christ and denies the cultural transformation that such conversion will entail necessarily misrepresents the reality of our faith, which is always a new beginning in the life of him who alone is the way, the truth and the life", John Paul II said.

The issue of conversions is controversial in India, where right-wing Hindu organisations accuse Christians of seeking to convert Hindus by force. Six states have passed conversion laws, which Hindu groups say protect poor Indians against forced conversions and which Christians say are discriminatory and curtail religious freedom. Last month, the Pope expressed his concerns about India's conversion laws, provoking a significant criticism from Hindu groups and a prominent politician.

The Tablet

Agartala Diocese condemns RSS invective against Missionaries (CBCI)
Chattisgarh 'Reconversion' ceremony a political stunt (CBCI)
Indian bishop urges religious to face persecution with joy (11/7/03)
Pope accused of interfering in Indian affairs (Ekklesia)
Catholic Bishops Conference of India

15 Jul 2003