Unusual saffron cloak of Belgaum Bishop creates controversy

Daijiworld Media Network - Belagavi (MS)

Belagavi, Sep 13: The saffron cloak worn by Bishop Derek Fernandes, in addition to sporting vermilion tilak on his forehead while offering Mass, in the photographs that have appeared on social media have created a controversy in Roman Catholic Church of the country.

These pictures are posted on Twitter by Savio Rodrigues, who is a journalist-activist. The pictures posted show many unidentified men wearing the saffron robe and rudraksha malas on their neck giving the bishop company as co-celebrants while offering the Eucharist in a church which has photos of Hindu swamis on its wall.

While Christians were furious with this act of high ranked clergy like bishop and warned him against such activities, some even said what he has done is blasphemy. However, some others said that it is a ploy by Bishop Derek, who was appointed as the sixth bishop of Belgaum by Pope Francis on May 1, to mislead Hindus and get them converted to Christianity.

Bishop Derek Fernandes, however, is not available for clarification as he is in Rome.

These photographs were supposedly taken on August 29 as per the information given by Philip Kutty Joseph, vicar general of Belgaum diocese. The bishop was on a visit to a church in Deshnur, around 28 km from Belagavi.

Philip Kutty said, "The said church was called as Virakta Math earlier. Jesuit priests went to this church for the first time more than 40 years ago and took on the Indian custom like wearing saffron robes. The tabernacle of the church is in the form of Shiva Linga."

According to the clarification given by Fr Nelson Pinto, a priest of Belgaum diocese, over phone, this church at Deshnur was first accessed by Jesuit priests and they adopted the local culture as the region was predominantly inhabited by Lingayats.

Fr Pinto says that the Jesuit priests themselves became vegetarians and also took upon the local culture and practices. But he also clarified that this was not done to convert the local people.

In his explanation on the issue, Filipe Neri Ferrao, metropolitan Archbishop of Goa and Daman and Patriarch of the East Indies said that though this incident involving bishop Derek Fernandes has not come to his notice, it appears to be a kind of practice which is called as 'Inculturation' as called in the Roman Catholic Church.

Filipe said, "The photographs show that the Eurcharistic ceremony in the church appears to be the assimilation of local culture, which is called inculturation. It can be seen in the attire they are wearing and also the liturgy."

Though the Roman Catholic Church did not take this incident seriously, the activist cum journalist Rodrigues, who posted the pictures on Twitter has received several threat messages. One of the message says, "Savio Rodrigues, Judas in the name of Catholic. Reward of Rs 50,000, if anyone makes his face black and garlands him with shoes."

Some other Catholics have felt offended by this post of Savio Rodrigues. One such person said, in reply to the tweet of Rodrigues, "Hey Savio or whoever you may be.. please do not speak against our Catholic religion. You have no right to talk against our religion."


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Comment on this article

  • Dominic, Karwar

    Sun, Sep 22 2019

    Catholic Worship in saffron robes, is not in accord with the norms established by the Catholic Church. Such deviation from the norms on part of the Bishop, who is the teaching authority , causes division and confusion among the catholics and other non -christian brethren; as seen from the reactions in the social media.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Chandu, Karla

    Sat, Sep 14 2019

    God is One and He will not see what color one wears while worshipping Him. It's we human beings have made all these stupid differences as to which religion has to wear what color that too only in this great country India.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sampath, India

    Sat, Sep 14 2019

    Can some one enter ethically restricted place with christian dresscode?
    Because few people here say that dress code doesn't matter at all..
    If they think that it is Indian culture then they should use indian way of praising the lord using sanskrit mantras and rituals.....
    There is only one creator God whos is called Bramha....which is mentioned in the oldest scriptures of this human race.... don't try to put it in sarcastic way....
    All drama will end soon....

    DisAgree [12] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Al Dsouza, Canada

    Sat, Sep 14 2019

    Sampath, are you sure about god has a name? May be drama end soon just because you have no clue who is real god with thousands names attached to it.

    DisAgree [5] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Satish Yogan, KGF

    Sat, Dec 04 2021

    Hey Al , The thousand names you refer to are given by worshipers or devotees....We all know there is one supreme being and has no form. Get your spiritual understanding right.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Sukanya, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Everybody please chill!! God is God.. Even if you wear pink or black or blue.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [33] Reply Report Abuse

  • Tea Boy, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    No Problem as long as all those religious exhibits like saffron colour dress, tilak, Rudraksha Mala, Shiva Linga etc mean and symbolizes the same for two religions in question but they don't. So it's an insult for both the religions for degrading one over other.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse

  • Raj, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Bait and switch. This is why there was a push to make lingayat a separate religion.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • El En Tea, Mumbai

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    I believe in only one GOD creator of heaven and earth and we living creatures plants
    Animals Birds....
    Dress code man made

    DisAgree [6] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sandy, Udupi

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Somebody in Africa said, when White priests first landed here, they had the Bible and we had the land,, now they have the land and we have the Bible

    DisAgree [1] Agree [31] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sunil Pinto, Dubai/ Udupi

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Bishop Desmond Tutu said that.

    DisAgree Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Shan, Udupi

    Sat, Sep 14 2019

    Did he ruled his country in proper way when he got power from British?

    DisAgree [1] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • ad, mangaluru

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Appeasing the Bhakts or Fooling them- you make the call

    DisAgree [5] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ruben Pinto, Mangalore/Australia

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    For more than 5000 years our ancestors dressed like this. It is just for under 300 years, we started worshiping a different god. Does that mean we change our identity. A definite no.

    DisAgree [13] Agree [20] Reply Report Abuse

  • James, Belman

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    We have catholic priests wearing safron lungi and safron Kurtha with long beard serving in the ashrams in U.P. they're called as sanyasi preists. There is absolutely nothing wrong wearing safron.

    DisAgree [18] Agree [39] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rob, NY

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    If one can assimilate the local culture then why don't we assimilate the local beliefs and religion.
    Dress is not the only thing once needs to assimilate.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • Shan, Udupi

    Sat, Sep 14 2019

    What you mean local belief? I saw so many non muslims wear kandura (local dress of middle east).you mean they have to convert into middle east (muslim) belief?

    DisAgree Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Gration D Souza, Kulshekar/ Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 14 2019

    It is rightly said, we are Indians we should live in communal harmony . European dress and heritage followers definitely object this. We should respect the priests and devotees who dress saffron and they are the role models of the society ..

    DisAgree [2] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Valson Mendonsa, Mangalore/USA

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    There is NOTHING wrong to meeting with interfaith community & visiting to their place of worship and eating food with them..that always good brotherwood

    BUT..News!!"Saffron cloak worn in addition sporting vermilion tilak" is a question mark ??that continue with others in future with followers that may go bad.. thinking twice is better than acting fast..

    DisAgree [7] Agree [26] Reply Report Abuse

  • Shan, Udupi

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Once I was reading news that some christian people were worshiping to Allah.
    People of some religion objected and fighting that Allah is their God. On my surprise I attended Arabic mass in the church in Dubai and they started mass with the prayer bismallsh. Then I understood bismsllah or Allah means almighty.

    DisAgree Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sunil Pinto, Dubai/ Udupi

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    In Tamil Nadu and Velankanni also it is common for Mother Mary statue to be decked in Saree...Also Mother Mary statue and Lord Jesus statue are painted a shade darker to identify as Indians. I appreciate their progressive, forward thinking attitude.

    DisAgree [4] Agree [25] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dr Mohan Prabhu, LL.D, QC, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    To me the reaction of the journo is preposterous. It is not the first time a priest has done this. Way back three centuries ago, a Jesuit reformer (white man) adopted Brahmanic customs and in fact became one of the Brahmins in order to spread religion. And he was quite successful until the narrow-minded clergy put a stop to it. Praise the Lord in whatever way the faithful decide, with true and clean heart and acknowledging His supremacy over all people He has created.

    DisAgree [10] Agree [25] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Atlanta

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Ther's only One God & he's the Creator ...

    DisAgree [6] Agree [43] Reply Report Abuse

  • G R PRABHUJI, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Who told that saffron colored dress must wear Hidus only. Foolishness.

    DisAgree [7] Agree [50] Reply Report Abuse

  • I wish I was There, Bahrain

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Who are we....Did we not learn from our parents not to judge a Priest or the church, It is God's job to judge and our job is to Pray, so please stop judging. Before judging others, judge first yourself.

    DisAgree [5] Agree [31] Reply Report Abuse

  • Vishu, Udpui

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    What to do with our Siddanna ex-cm now , he is afraid of NAMA !

    DisAgree [17] Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • shuba, Mumbai

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Precisely such actions are needed to be followed by the church which goes depending upon the culture and the enviornment. In fact The God Almighty never gave any dress code. Since it is the westerners who brought this civilisation in this part of the world we followed their dress code. As Indians if we dress up according to our culture and worship the same Almighty with our heart and mind it will surely give glory to God as we belong to the place where we worship with our culture. May the True God be glorified with a clean heart!

    DisAgree [10] Agree [45] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rolf, Dubai

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    British came to india with same mentilaty to mix with people.
    later history will tell.

    DisAgree [11] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • R.Bhandarkar, Mangaluru

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Now please do not bring Lord Jesus into this...
    He never said wear this color or that...
    All man made...OK ?

    DisAgree [8] Agree [76] Reply Report Abuse

  • kashi, MLORE

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    looking so nice

    DisAgree [6] Agree [40] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rajesh. D., Manglore, Dubai.

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Guys stop worrying, we will not become holy or righteous if our priests wear clothes with white or Red colour.

    We will make sure that our heart is white like snow with out any guilt, do not worry what others wear, you worry whether your name is written in the book of life or no.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [46] Reply Report Abuse

  • Prakash, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    You may be mistaking culture for religion !!
    Christian faith may survive better under Indian Culture than any western culture in the near future.
    Names , symbols, colours create a powerful perception in peoples mind. The only and True tribute to Jesus is only possible by sharing and caring, and not by cultural supremacy.

    DisAgree [8] Agree [33] Reply Report Abuse

  • JL, Mangaluru Smart City

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    2 Timothy 3 - sounds very much true, by looking these guys.What a prophecy.. Praise God......

    DisAgree [4] Agree [17] Reply Report Abuse

  • observer, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Christian community always there in favor of freedom of expression. They shoudnt take this seriously.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [32] Reply Report Abuse

  • Raj, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    there is nothing wrong, simply useless brains make noise. no one has copyright over any costume or colour..

    DisAgree [12] Agree [58] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ahmed K. C., Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    May be a step towards "Hindu Rashtra" ???

    DisAgree [75] Agree [28] Reply Report Abuse


    Fri, Sep 13 2019

    Really disturbed seeing in whatsap. I am sorry Jesus. Please forgive me.

    DisAgree [58] Agree [35] Reply Report Abuse

  • John Tauro, M'luru

    Sat, Sep 14 2019

    Why are you so disturbed ma’am? Our Lord had not commanded his disciples or future priests to wear white, brown or saffron cloaks. Dress codes originated centuries later with the formation of different orders of priests and nuns, for reasons better known to them. In short these are all man made customs and traditions.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

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