MUMBAI, India – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was asked to invite Pope Francis to the country during a Jan. 19 meeting with three of the country’s cardinals.
Cardinals Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Syro-Malankara Church leader Baselios Cleemis met with the prime minister for around 45 minutes.
The meeting took place at the request of P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, the current governor of the eastern state of Mizoram.
He is a member of the ruling Hindu-nationalist BJP party, which is seeking more votes in Kerala, where around a fifth of the population is Christian, ahead of state assembly elections.
Talking to reporters after the meeting in Delhi, the cardinals said the prime minister agreed to their request for an invitation to Pope Francis and promised to take a decision soon.
“It is overdue. We expect a decision from the prime minister soon,” said Alencherry.
The cardinals also discussed the distribution of funds and scholarships for minorities in the country, claiming that Christians were not receiving their fair share.
Alencherry also said the cardinals brought up the jailing of Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, a longtime human rights activist in the country.
The cardinal said that although the meeting didn’t involve politics, Modi praised the Church’s contributions to education, social work and health services in the country.
“It was very positive…He was relaxed and he was friendly also,” Gracias told reporters.