The Vatican’s prefect for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has cancelled his planned trip to Nepal due to tensions over the country’s draft constitution. Nepal’s controversial draft constitution has raised tensions due to provisions that would establish the country as a Hindu state and would also make religious conversion illegal. Nepal’s religious minorities, including Christians, fear the passing of this draft constitution will lead to increased persecution.
9/14/2015 Nepal (UCANews) – Top Vatican official Cardinal Fernando Filoni has abandoned his plans to visit Nepal this week amid a heated debate over secularism in the country’s constitution, according to reports.
The prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was to visit Nepal Sept. 15-19 as part of a three-nation tour of South Asia. However, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the time is not appropriate to visit the Himalayan country, according to local news reports.
Officials with Caritas Nepal confirmed that the cardinal’s visit has been canceled.
“We have no official information. But it is now known that the cardinal is not coming” to Nepal, said Jesuit Father Pius Perumana, who heads Caritas Nepal.
The cardinal was scheduled to meet local Church leaders and to visit areas where Caritas Nepal is helping people affected by the massive April earthquake that killed some 9,000 people and injured nearly 25,000.
According to local media, the tense political situation in Nepal may be to blame. The nation this week enters the final phase of voting to promulgate a long-awaited new constitution, after struggling for more than a decade to finalize wording on which all three major political parties can agree.
One major issue has been whether or not to drop a provision stipulating that Nepal is a secular state — a key concern for religious minorities, including Christians.
Many Hindus, who comprise more than 80 percent of Nepal’s population, are demanding that Nepal be restored as a Hindu state. Hindu hard-liners believe secularization would leave Nepal vulnerable to religious conversions and other outside influences. In mid-August, pro-Hindu groups clashed with police, leaving dozens injured.
The cardinal’s visit, then, could have been controversial for Hindu hard-liners. Cardinal Filoni heads the Church’s evangelization efforts across the world.