Indian Christian leaders say the freeze of the accounts is "a cruel Christmas gift to the poorest of the poor."

New Delhi claims it came across
New Delhi claims it came across "adverse inputs" while considering the charity's renewal application, without elaborating further. (AP)

India's government has blocked Mother Teresa's charity from receiving foreign funds, saying the Catholic organisation did not meet conditions under local laws, dealing a blow to one of the most prominent groups running shelters for the poor.

The Home Ministry said in a statement on Monday that the Missionaries of Charity's application for renewing a license that allows it to get funds from abroad was rejected on Christmas.

The ministry said it came across "adverse inputs" while considering the charity's renewal application. It did not elaborate.

Vicar General Dominic Gomes of the Archdiocese of Calcutta said the freeze of the accounts was "a cruel Christmas gift to the poorest of the poor".

String of attacks on Christians

Its troubles come in the wake of a string of attacks on Christians in some parts of India by Hindu right-wing groups, who accuse pastors and churches of forced conversions. 

The attacks have especially been prominent in the southern state of Karnataka, which has seen nearly 40 cases of threats or violence against Christians this year, according to a report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

The Hindu newspaper on Monday reported disruption of Christmas celebrations at the weekend and last week, including the vandalising of a life-size statue of Jesus Christ at Ambala in Haryana, a northern state governed by Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

It said activists burnt a model of Santa Claus and chanted anti-Christmas slogans outside a church in Varanasi, Modi's parliamentary constituency.

Earlier on Monday, the chief minister of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee, sparked outrage when she tweeted that the government had frozen the bank accounts of the charity. But the government soon clarified that it had not frozen any accounts.

The charity confirmed in a statement that the government had not frozen its accounts but added that its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act renewal application had not been approved.

"Therefore ... we have asked our centres not to operate any of the (foreign contribution) accounts until the matter is resolved," it said.

'The poorest of the poor'

Earlier this month, the Missionaries of Charity, which Mother Teresa started in Kolkata in 1950, found itself under investigation in the western state of Gujarat following complaints that girls in its shelters were forced to read the Bible and recite Christian prayers. 

The charity has denied the allegations.

The charity runs hundreds of shelters that care for some of the world's neediest people who Mother Teresa had described as "the poorest of the poor."

India is home to the second largest Catholic population in Asia after the Philippines, but the roughly 18 million Catholics represent a small minority in the largely Hindu nation of nearly 1.4 billion. 

Minorities under attack by Hindu far-right

Critics say religious tensions have grown under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government, with more frequent attacks against minorities, especially Muslims and Christians. 

Last week, dozens of Indian monks and politicians with ties to Modi's right-wing government held a three-day summit, calling for "ethnic cleansing" of India's nearly 200 million Muslims, sparking massive outrage.

Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in 1979, and Pope Francis declared her a saint in 2017, two decades after her death.

Source: AP