Catholics in Kerala are excited at the news that Pope Francis has indicated that he “almost certainly” would visit India and Bangladesh in 2017.
The Pope said this in his interaction with the media on Sunday.
Speaking to IANS, the head of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI) in Thiruvananthapuram said, “We are all happy and excited to hear the news, but it's early days yet”.
Cardinal Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis said, “Last year itself we (CBCI) extended an invite to the Pope to consider a visit to India. Now as he has expressed his interest, an official invite from the Indian government would be required to be forwarded”.
“The Vatican state will then hold talks with the Indian government. Once that's done, then the itinerary will be drawn up,” said Cleemis, who is the head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church in Thiruvananthapuram and part of the electoral college of cardinals that elected Pope Francis.
If the visit materialises, Pope Francis would become the third pope to visit India.
Pope Paul VI was the first to make a papal visit to India when in 1964 he came to Mumbai (then Bombay) to take part in the 38th Eucharistic Congress.
Pope John Paul II came to India twice—first to Kerala in 1986 for two days to beatify Sister Alphonsa and Sister Kuriakose Elias Chavara. He visited Delhi next in November 1999.
“It's too early to say whether the visit would materialise and whether the Pope would visit Kerala. Of course, each and every Catholic would definitely want to see the Pope if he comes to our state. Let us wish and pray that he comes to Kerala,” said Cleemis.
A Catholic priest on condition of anonymity told IANS that he is quite certain that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government would only be glad to extend an invite to the Pope.
“If you look back, the Communists had an anti-Christian outlook when they started off, but today they do not have any such notions. Likewise the BJP, which is trying to build bridges across minority communities, will be only glad to get the Pope to India,” said the priest, adding that at present none of the three Catholic churches has any major programme lined up for 2017.