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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: Service / Installation Engineer - South East England

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful Service Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most