The Catholic Church in the southern Indian state of Kerala has urged its members to distance themselves from prayer groups that promise miracles. Such groups, the Church says, is behind the propagation of hate and division between religious communities.
In a pastoral letter, the Kerala Catholic Bishop Council sharply criticized the modern prayer movements that "teach that evil spirits would come to us if we use some kinds of flowers, pictures of elephants or peacock, lamps or `mangalsutra.'"
"They are spreading the message that by using things which other religions consider sacred, the sins would also come to the user. All this show only their abhorrence for Hindu religion," the letter signed by president Daniel Acharuparambil and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, states.
Although the Catholic Church preaches only Jesus, the letter adds, it does not disregard what is true or divine in other religions. It argued that even the Bible exhorts respect for non-Christian religions.
The Catholic council further mentioned that such prayer groups even exist within the Catholic community. And although they have been instrumental in reviving faith, they have sometimes misinterpreted the Bible and its laws.
The bishop council ordered the clergy to be cautious those who claim to have revelations or gifts of healing. The Church must protect and instruct the laity from such groups, they wrote.
The Indian Pentecostal Church (IPC), meanwhile, refuted the claims and said it "only preaches the Gospel" and that the accusation was an attempt to confuse the Hindus.
Calling it a desperate act by the Catholic Church to protect its flock, IPC president K.M. Joseph, said, "Large number of Catholics are leaving for other new-life sects and this was worrying them as their very existence is in danger."