Mar Raphael Thattil, the recently elected Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, paid a visit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on February 9. According to a statement by the church, the trip by Mar Thattil was to express his gratitude to PM Modi for writing a felicitation letter on Thattil's enthronement as the major archbishop.
The statement further said ministers of state Rajeev Chandrasekhar and V Muraleedharan were alongside PM Modi during the meeting. Addressing the media, Mar Thattil clarified that the discussion did not touch upon contentious issues such as recent church attacks in North India or the violence in Manipur.
The interaction between Mar Thattil and PM Narendra Modi has drawn attention due to the perceived alignment of the Syro-Malabar Church with the ideologies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in recent years. While the BJP-led union government has cultivated closer ties with the Syro-Malabar Church, the bishop emphasised that his visit was solely to express gratitude and did not indicate any overt political endorsement.
The Syro-Malabar Church, constituting a significant portion of Kerala's Christian population, has historically played a pivotal role in the state's socio-political landscape. With Catholics comprising the dominant group within Kerala's Christian community, Mar Thattil's visit to PM assumes importance.
Many of the Bishops have openly advocated BJP ideologies in recent years. In 2023 April during a two-day visit, PM Modi had a meeting with former Syro-Malabar Catholic Church head Cardinal George Alencherry, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church head Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India Baselios Marthoma Mathews III and Metropolitan Trustee of the Jacobite Church Joseph Mor Gregorios. Prior to that in 2016, Bishop Thattil's predecessor Alencherry had met PM Modi in Delhi.