03/16/2019, 16.19
INDIA
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Card. Gracias to Catholics: Voting is a sacred duty. Do so wisely

The president of the Indian bishops appeals to the faithful and pastors. The general elections will take place on seven dates, from 11 April to 19 May. The secretary of the Bishops' Conference asked for voting not to be hold on  Holy Thursday. Card Gracias emphasizes: "India needs leaders who understand that authority is a service".

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Voting is a "sacred obligation: do so wisely". This is the appeal launched by Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI). He addresses all the bishops and the Catholic faithful of India, inviting them to go to vote at the upcoming general elections, which will take place on seven dates between 11 April and 19 May. While about 900 million people are expected at the polls, the Cardinal points out: "Every single vote counts. We owe it to ourselves, to our children and to our country, to exercise this sacred duty and to involve ourselves in improving the direction of our nation ”.

Card Gracias says that India "needs leaders who understand that authority is a service". For this reason he lists the most burning national issues that future administrators will have to respond to:  an economy to support the poor and the disadvantaged; create a healthy environment for all citizens, especially women and children; safeguarding the rights of tribals on land, water and forests; take care of dalits and abolish discrimination against them; to promote harmony between communities and interreligious dialogue; protect the environment, preserving the richness of nature for future generations.

Beside the president of the bishops who remembers the supreme duty of every citizen to vote, the voice of Msgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, general secretary of the CBCI, who in another appeal asks that the elections not be held on Holy Thursday. He intervenes following the discontent that has spread in the Indian Catholic community, which disputes the calendar of votes set during Holy Week.

On 18 April, Holy Thursday several Indian states will vote: Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Throughout the country, the Catholic community is made up of 20 million faithful. Monsignor Mascarenhas points out that his appeal "has no religious purpose, it just wants to express the logistical difficulties" connected to the date of the vote.

 For the Christians of India, where Holy Thursday is not a public holiday, "it is already very difficult to be able to participate in prayers, asking for holidays at work or permits to leave the offices early". Added to this is the moral obligation to serve the country, both attending the polling stations and voting at the polls. Respecting both religious and civic duties, "will be very difficult", adds the secretary.

As for Card. Gracias, he expresses the need to give some "guidelines to our people for the good of the country". India, he underlines, "has made great progress in the scientific and technological fields, infrastructure and public services have improved".

At the same time, critical aspects remain: “The great difference between rich and poor; day laborers struggling to survive; farmers under pressure; ethics that is no longer the guiding principle of society and seems to have been supplanted by the economy as a driving force for decisions ". For all these reasons, in conclusion he suggests that in order to choose “the best for our country. We must vote judiciously ".

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