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MEA summons Vatican representative in India

India has expressed strong "displeasure and disapproval" the Pope's statement criticising religious freedom in the country.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 14:00 IST

India on Tuesday expressed strong "displeasure and disapproval" of the statement by Pope Benedict XVI criticising religious freedom in the country, but opined that the Pope perhaps had not been briefed on its secular character.

The Pope had, in remarks made to India's ambassador to the Vatican, Amitava Tripathi, on May 18, criticised the anti-conversion laws in certain states, saying such legislation went against the religious freedom propagated by the Indian Constitution.

Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said in Rajya Sabha during zero hour that the Ministry had summoned the Charge de affaires of the Vatican in India on Monday and conveyed "government of India's strong displeasure and disapproval of the statement by the Pope".

"Perhaps the Pope had not been adequately briefed on India's secular character," Mr Sharma said.

He said the official spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry had also, on May 19, conveyed the government's protest against the statement.

The spokesman had said, "It is acknowledged universally that India is a secular and democratic country in which adherents of all religious faiths enjoy equal rights. The Constitution of India states that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.