Thiruvananthapuram:- As Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday invited Pope Francis to visit India, Catholics in Kerala are elated, said Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.
Following their meeting earlier in the day at the Vatican, Modi announced that he “had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him and also invited him to visit India”.
This was the first in-person meeting between the two.
In response, the Cardinal said: “We are all deeply excited and happy that from the news what we hear in the media that Modiji has invited Pope to visit India. Christians in general and Catholics in particular have been waiting for the Pope to arrive in India and of course to Kerala. Now that the invite has been extended, we can be rest assured that it will happen.”
Christians in Kerala constitute around 19 per cent of the state’s 33 million population.
The three Catholic churches account for 50 per cent of the Christians in the state.
Cleemis further said that the invite is only the first step before numerous procedures before the Pope can actually visit the country.
“We will all wait for things to happen and once the visit is officially cleared, numerous things have to fall in place and each and every aspect will have to be planned in detail.”
During their meeting in 2014 soon after Modi assumed office, Cleemis gave a memorandum stating that the Union Government should extend an invite to the Pope to visit India.
The last papal visit to India was a very brief one which took place in 1999 and the only time that a Pope visited Kerala was way back in 1986 to beatify Sister Alphonsa and Kuriakose Elias Chavara popularly known as Chavara Achen.
Earlier on Saturday, state BJP president K. Surendran called on Cardinal Cleemis, at the same time when Modi called on the Pope at the Vatican.
Calling the meeting “historic”, Surendran said: “This will send out a strong message about how a country like India looks upon various religious leaders. Kerala as all knows has a very large Christian population and the visit will be helpful in all aspects.”