Pope launches a crusade in Asia

POPE JOHN PAUL, ignoring Hindu appeals to halt the Roman Catholic Church's drive for converts in Asia, told the leaders of other religions yesterday that converting to another religion had to be recognised as a right.

The Pope, in India to launch a millennial blueprint for the church in Asia, stressed greater dialogue between the world's faiths to promote peace. But he returned to the central theme of his visit: that evangelisation had to be a priority in Asia at the start of the third Christian millennium.

"No state, no group has the right to control either directly or indirectly a person's religious convictions," he told religious leaders, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jainists, Zoroastrians, Jews and Bahais. "Religious freedom constitutes the very heart of human rights. Its inviolability is such that individuals must be recognised as having the right even to change their religion if their conscience so demands."

The 79-year-old Pontiff was speaking as millions of Hindus celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights. The festival is the high point in their religious calendar, marking the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.

The Hindu holy man Shankaracharya Madhavanananda Saraswati, wearing saffron clothes, held up the Pope's hand as the two men met and a rabbi draped the Pope's shoulders in a prayer shawl. "Do accept the openness of our religion and our love," the Shankaracharya said in his speech. "We also desire your co-operation in making our holy culture a culture of the world."

But Hindu activists have strongly opposed the Pope's visit to Delhi, accusing missionaries of coercing poorer Indians into converting to Catholicism. They demanded that the Pope order a moratorium on conversions, a call that has gone unheeded.

The Pontiff travelled to India to conclude an Asian synod of bishops begun in Rome last year and to present a document called Ecclesia in Asia (The Church in Asia), which calls for the spreading of the Gospel in the continent which has the fewest Catholics.

t The death toll in the cyclone that ravaged eastern India last month has climbed above 3,400, with the majority of victims in the Jagatsinghpur district, rescue workers said yesterday.

Meanwhile, diarrhoea is plaguing thousands of people who drank tainted water. The Orissa state government said there were as yet no epidemics of water-borne diseases, such as gastroenteritis and cholera, but more doctors had been flown into the worst-hit areas.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living