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Pope unaware of our secularism: India

"There are disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of India," the Pope had said.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 20:01 IST

In a "firm, appropriate and timely" response, India on Tuesday told the Vatican that it disapproved Pope's criticism against banning conversions and his remarks of religious intolerance in the country.

Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told the Rajya Sabha that Charge d'affaires to the Holy See here was summoned by his Ministry on Tuesdayand it was conveyed to him in "no uncertain terms that Government of India disapproved (Pope's) statement" and was displeased by it.

Pope Benedict XVI had made the statement to new Indian Ambassador to Vatican when he presented his credentials on May 18.

"There are disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation (India)," the Pope was quoted as saying.

He emphasised "the reprehensible attempt to legislate laws to ban conversions is clearly discriminatory" impinging on the fundamental right of religious freedom.

Sharma was responding to agitated members of BJP led by Ravi Shanker Prasad who during Zero Hour said the Pope's statement was "grossly unwarranted and we protest and condemn it".

Prasad attacked the UPA government of maintaining silence on the issue.

Explaining the action taken by India, Sharma said it was pointed out to the Charge d'affaires that the Pope was not properly briefed about secularism and religious tolerance in India which very few other countries can boast of.

"I will like to assure the House that Government of India's response was firm, appropriate and timely," he said.

First Published: May 23, 2006 16:57 IST