INDIA (ACN News): Vocations are continuing to grow in the north of India despite increasing persecution, according to a bishop in the region.
Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar diocese, in Madhya Pradesh, north India, said the number of candidates to the priesthood had grown over the past decade and now stood at 41.
“When the diocese started in ’68 as an exarchate there were only 600 Catholics and three priests – now we are 35 (priests),” he said.
This comes in spite of persecution and discrimination against religious minorities in the country.
India’s International Affairs Minister Ajay Maken said Madhya Pradesh endured the second-highest number of religious-related incidents in 2009, with 654 attacks.
Bishop Chirayath, while pointing out that that there has been no religious-hatred-related deaths, stressed that it took courage for young people to come forward to serve in the Church.
“They know, after Orissa, that there are persecutions and these incidents – the killing of priests and sisters – are all known to every young man or woman,” he said.
“But in spite of that they come forward to be priests or sisters.”
The bishop of the Syro-Malabar Church – an oriental Church in full communion with the pope – paid tribute to the candidates offering themselves for priesthood and religious life despite family circumstances and the increased violence the Church faces.
“It takes courage to proclaim Jesus to the non-Christian world, it is a challenge,” he said.
“Many sisters have been attacked, sexually assaulted, killed, but young women are coming forward to be nuns in places where there has been persecution.
“There are still plenty of vocations, God has blessed us.”
Most vocations come from Kerala where the Syro-Malabar community is particularly strong.
Stressing how Christians drew strength from the ancient roots of the Syro-Malabar Church, Bishop Chirayath said: “We are sons of Saint Thomas – part of a tradition of faith stretching back 2000 years.”
He described how the prevalence of family devotions, such as the Rosary, also helped encourage vocations.
“The young are involved in social and religious activity – this is an inspiration from them to help the poor and needy as priests or sisters,” he said.
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