Indian Government Apologizes for Denying Visas to Vatican Officials

BANGALORE, India (CNS) — The Indian government has apologized to a senior church official for refusing visas to two Vatican officials traveling to address a meeting of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India.

“[A] senior officer from the Ministry of External Affairs called me up a short while ago and apologized for denying visas to the archbishops [from the Vatican],” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, told Catholic News Service on 5 February.

“The government has also assured that it will investigate what went wrong,” said Cardinal Gracias, bishops’ conference president.

The cardinal announced the “bad news” that visas were denied for Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of the Pontifical Missionary Societies. The two were trying to get to the opening of the bishops’ 3 February meeting in Bangalore.

Archbishop Roche presented his paper by video teleconference and answered several questions from the participating bishops.

“We are happy that the government has acknowledged and responded to our anguish,” Cardinal Gracias at the end of the two-hour program.

Although both Vatican officials had applied for a visa in mid-December, the application was pending until the last minute, and the denial was communicated to them shortly before their departure to India, Father Stephen Alathara, deputy secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, told CNS.

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