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Indian government apologises for denying visas to Vatican officials

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias (CNS)

The Indian government has apologised to a senior Church official for refusing visas to two Vatican officials travelling to address a meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai told the Catholic News Service (CNS) yesterday: “[A] senior officer from the ministry of external affairs called me up a short while ago and apologised for denying visas to the archbishops [from the Vatican].”

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

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 Evangelisation of Peoples and president of the Pontifical Missionary Societies. The two were trying to get to the opening of the bishops’ meeting in Bangalore on Tuesday.

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 programme.

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, Fr Stephen Alathara, deputy secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, told CNS.