Pope tells Indian bishops to oppose caste system

Posted: Friday, November 21, 2003

VATICAN CITY (AP) Pope John Paul II told visiting Roman Catholic bishops from India that Christians must reject divisions based on caste, saying such prejudice ''denies the human dignity of entire groups of people.''

He repeated condemnations of the caste system made during a 1986 visit to India and applauded steps by India's bishops to set an example in fighting these divisions.

The pope said caste-based prejudice violates ''authentic human solidarity'' and is ''a threat to genuine spirituality.''

''Customs or traditions that perpetuate or reinforce caste division should be sensitively reformed so that they may become an expression of the solidarity of the whole Christian community,'' he said Monday.

In remarks to the pope distributed by the Vatican, Archbishop James Masilamony Arul Das of Madras and Mylapore expressed concern about an anti-conversion law enacted by the government of Tamil Nadu last year that requires all baptisms to be reported to the government.

The pope complained about such laws earlier this year, contending they stemmed from pressure by Hindu extremists.

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