Belgaum diocese Bishop Derek Fernandes was seen wearing saffron robes and stirs up controversy. The pictures were posted on Twitter by Savio Rodrigues and has since gone viral on social media. The bishop is believed to have been performing the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Karwar: Bishop Derek Fernandes was seen wearing vermillion on his forehead while dressed in saffron clothes. The pictures of which have stirred a controversy for the Roman Catholic church in the country.
Fernandes was seen accompanied by unidentified men - who were also dressed like the bishop- with some even wearing rudraksha malas.
According to reports, they appear to show the bishop performing the sacrament of the Eucharist in a church with pictures of Hindu swamis. The pictures, posted on Twitter by journalist-activist Savio Rodrigues, set off a firestorm of charges against the prelate.
Some accused Fernandes, whom Pope Francis appointed as the sixth bishop of Belgaum on May 1, of trying to mislead Hindus and described it as a ploy to convert them. Several Christians on Twitter warned the bishop against such activities and charged him with blasphemy. Bishop Fernandes, currently in Rome, was unavailable for comment.
Philip Kutty Joseph, vicar general of the Belgaum diocese, said the photographs were taken on August 29 on a visit by Bishop Fernandes to a church in Deshnur, 28km from Belagavi.
“The church was earlier called Virakta mutt,” he said. “Jesuit priests first went there more than 40 years ago and adopted Indian practices such as donning saffron robes. In fact, the tabernacle is in the form of a Shiva linga.”
Father Nelson Pinto, a priest explained that when the first Jesuit priests went to Deshnur, in a predominantly Lingayat region, they adopted the local culture.
“The Jesuit priests became vegetarians and embraced other local practices,” Pinto was quoted as saying. “They did not do it to convert the people who lived there.”
Metropolitan Archbishop of Goa & Daman and Patriarch of the East Indies Filipe Neri Ferrão said he was unaware of the incident involving Bishop Fernandes, but said it appeared to be part of a practice that the Catholic Church calls inculturation.
Last Updated 11:52 AM IST