New Delhi, 22 August--In a significant development, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Catholic Church leaders have met and agreed to hold regular dialogue on contentious issues such as conversions and attacks on church personnel.

The agreement was reached at a meeting between an RSS delegation led by its chief K.S. Sudarshan and a team of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) headed by Archbishop Oswald Gracias at the CBCI headquarters Tuesday.

The meeting was facilitated by the National Commission for Minorities, whose member John Joseph was also present on the occasion. During the more than an hour long meeting, both sides reiterated their stated positions.

"There was no specific agenda. We felt that there was a need to sit together and discuss the issues instead of levelling charges against each other back and forth", CBCI spokesman Father Dominic Emmanuel told PTI.

While the church representatives stated that the charges of "forcible conversion" made against them by Sangh Parivar outfits were wrong, they (RSS) denied any role in the attacks on church personnel and said they wanted an impartial and thorough probe into such incidents, he said.

Both sides agreed on the "pluralistic nature" of the Indian society and the need to preserve it as such, Emmanuel said.

"The next meeting will be held at the Delhi RSS headquarters at Keshav Kunj in Jhandewalan, but the date and time have not yet been fixed", the church spokesman said adding that with Tuesday's meeting the ball has been set rolling and the process of dialogue has begun in right earnest.

RSS spokesman M.G. Vaidya was not available for comments.

The Minorities Commission had for the first time organized a meeting between the church and the Sangh Parivar outfits such as VHP and Bajrang Dal on 11 July last year in the wake of the attack on churches and its personnel, but the former boycotted it saying the latter did not represent the Hindu community at large.

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