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Bishop Appointed to Federal Commission in India April 15, 2003

The Indian government has appointed a Catholic bishop as one of the advisors to the National Planning Commission, which helps to plan the federal government's economic and welfare programs.

Bishop Mathew Arackal of Kanjirapally-- a diocese in the mountainous high ranges of the southern Kerala state-- is among 20 advisors, representing various non-profit agencies and humanitarian institutions, chosen by the government to represent public concerns to the government.

The bishop's appointment is noteworthy because it is the first time that a Catholic bishop has ever been appointed to a high secular post in India. The move is doubly remarkable because the appointment was made by a federal government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Known for his work among the "hill people" in his diocese-- especially plantation workers and small farmers, Bishop Arackal had made headlines recently with the launching of a farmers' cooperative bank under church sponsorship.