Source: Rediff on Net
KERALA, INDIA, April 5, 2001: On the eve of the assembly elections in Kerala where Christians constitute nearly 21 percent of the state's 30 million population, the first political demand from a religious community came from the Catholic church, when senior priests from the archdiocese of Thrissur met Congress leaders A K Antony and K Karunakaran and demanded the UDF political party field Catholic candidates from the district's five assembly constituencies -- Kodakara, Thrissur, Ollur, Manaloor and Kunnamkulam. The Vicar General of the Thrissur archdiocese Monsignor Joseph Kakkassery went a step further by issuing an ultimatum: "If the UDF rejects our demand, the Church will not hesitate to put up its own candidates in these five constituencies." UDF leaders had no choice but to agree. The five seats are dominated by Catholics, whose electoral decision will be influenced by Thrissur's Archbishop Jacob Thumkuzhy. Over the years, the Church has emerged as an influential pressure group in Kerala raising questions about whether it should flaunt its political affiliations and openly indulge in political activity. Church leaders are divided. Some say it is unethical. Others say it is in the proper Christian spirit. Father Paul Thelakat, editor of the Catholic weekly, The Sathyadeepam, laments, "It is improper. The mission of the Church is not political. Sometimes, I fear the line between politics and religion are getting blurred in Kerala."