Christian groups in Mumbai have made an enthusiastic appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend a formal invitation to Pope Francis to visit India in 2024. It would be the first papal visit in over twenty years, since Pope John Paul II toured the country back in 1999.
Cardinal Oswal Gracias was among a select group of faith leaders, business bigwigs, and community figures invited to the PM's residence for the Christmas Day celebration. He came away impressed, saying Modi was warm and friendly. The PM spoke positively about Christians' contributions in India.
Now Christian groups in Mumbai are passionately petitioning Modi to invite Pope Francis, especially after the PM and Pope had also met at the G20 Summit in Rome. The Mumbai-based Watchdog Foundation highlighted the constructive dialogue between the two leaders at the summit. They conveyed Christians' collective hope that Modi will invite the Pope to India in 2024.
“Our views are profound," said Watchdog advocate Vivian D'Souza. “We expect Modi to call the Pope to India. It will be a reassurance to the community considering what is going on.”
“The Roman Catholic Church is the biggest Christian denomination and asking the leader to come to India is the right thing. The visit from the Pope is anytime due, considering that the last visit by a Pope was in 1999,” he added.
Pope Francis himself has expressed interest in visiting India soon. Given this, the Watchdog Foundation strongly urged Modi to send an invitation, stressing the visit's importance for both Christians and all Indians.
In a letter, the Foundation praised Modi for hosting Christian figures on Christmas Day at his residence. They said a papal trip would advance interfaith dialogue and ties between India and the Vatican.
At the gathering, Modi reportedly had thanked Cardinal Gracias for travelling from Mumbai specially for the celebration at his residence. He spoke about Christmas as a celebration of Jesus' birth and lauded the charity work of India's Christians.