Cardinal Welcomes India's 1st Female President

Says Election an Important Step for Women's Equality

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NEW DELHI, India, JULY 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Church in India welcomes the election of Pratibha Patil as president, said Cardinal Telesphore Toppo.



Cardinal Toppo, president of the Indian bishops' conference, spoke with AsiaNews about Patil, 72, India's first female president, elected Saturday.

Cardinal Toppo said: "We extend her our good wishes and prayers so that she may discharge her duties, always being sensitive to the vision of the founding fathers of the nation."

"For the Catholic Church," the cardinal underlined, "this election is especially joyous as Patil, while governor of Rajasthan, refused to sign the Anti-Conversion Bill, thus proving beyond doubt her secular credential and her ability to withstand any external pressures."

Cardinal Toppo continued: "We hope that this election will be an important step toward gender equality in India. This is strong message that India values the contributions made by women."

"More women now serve in the armed forces, in senior corporate, media and government positions, and there are more girls in schools. One-third of seats in village councils are now reserved for women," the 67-year-old prelate explained.

"Sadly, however, in certain rural areas in India, women are still relegated to a secondary status," he continued. "This will give a great boost to women all over the country."

"Indira Gandhi," the cardinal added, "was the first woman prime minister, so now India is poised to welcome the first woman president."

"She will be a good president," Cardinal Toppo concluded. "God bless our president."