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Kolkata, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - Father Rodney Borneo resigned from the priesthood only to later join Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a party that pushes Hindu nationalist ideology in the country.
The change-up took place on March 9 in Kolkata city, capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. He officially joined BJP in a meeting attended by BJP national vice-president Mukul Roy, local party secretary Sabyasachi Dutta and spokesman Samik Bhattacharya. A video clip shows him ascending a stage, receiving the BJP flag and complying with the request to join the singing of the hymn "Bharat Mata Ki Jai," which means "victory to mother India."
Borneo was a popular diocesan priest and a principal for Kolkata-archdiocese-run Loyola High School. When he resigned his priestly office, he also resigned as school principal.
Local Bangla newspaper Kolkata24x7.com reported that Borneo left the priesthood due to a conflict with authorities in the Church. However, Borneo refused to proffer details about his resignation from the priesthood.
In the wake of his resignation, Borneo stated: "Yes, I joined the BJP ... and plan to work with them, and I'm ready to serve the people. I will fulfill whatever responsibilities will be given to me," adding, "The matter of my resignation is with the archdiocesan officials. It is up to them to take appropriate action."
According to Fr. Francis Rozario of Kolkata, Borneo dealt with "pressures and inconveniences" in his role as principal. Another source speculated that the archbishop resented the priest's popularity, as Borneo was often on television shows and in the print media. Earlier, he had even accompanied Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to Rome for Mother Teresa's canonization on Sept. 4, 2016.
Local Church authorities confirmed that they obtained a letter from Fr. Borneo tendering his resignation from the priesthood.
Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Kolkata told the media, "We have received his letter of resignation from Fr. Rodney Borneo. But in the Catholic Church, decisions such as these have to follow a process. This resignation also will follow a process according to the laws of the Church." The archbishop quickly added that "we wish all the best in his future endeavors."
Faithful Are Pained
Borneo, trained in psychology and counseling, was well-received in his role as principal of the prestigious Loyola High School, which made his resignation from the priesthood all the more painful to faithful Christians in India.
Angelina Mantosh, president of the Catholic Association of Bengal, a group of lay Catholics, said that they are pained that the priest abandoned his vocation of Holy Orders to join BJP. "Catholics are not taking it positively," Mantosh emphasized.
Osmond Charles, another member of the faithful, said that he is shocked. Charles explained, "God [chose] Fr. Rodney Borneo for His service, but he betrayed Him like Judas Iscariot and joined BJP. ... Joining a political party is personal, but rejection of God's love is sin."
Pradip Bhattacharya, a Catholic who supports BJP, defended Borneo, saying, "I see no bad as he has joined a political party only and not changed his Faith. This is only wrong in many people's perception that BJP is a religious party and meant only for Hindus." Bhattacharya underscored that "serving the nation does not demand religious priorities. He must have seen some good in BJP. Also, he can be proved as a representative of Christians in BJP to do good work for the country."