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Road reversal: Indian priests turn to West

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 13:26 IST

In a reversal of the path trekked by Western Christian missionaries in the 19th century to India, Indian priests are now returning the favour by moving to places like Wales and Ireland to meet a shortage of clerics.

In March, two priests from Mizoram moved to Wales. Now, two priests from Kerala have arrived in Dublin to serve the local catholic community.

It was smiles all round in the St Vincent de Paul Church in Marino, Dublin, this week as the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, welcomed the two priests from Kerala: Father Matthew Arackaparampil and Father Paul Njaliath.

Reports from Dublin said Archbishop Martin was delighted that the two priests were filling vacant positions. The number of people entering the priesthood in Ireland has dwindled during the 1990s.

In recent times, several parishes in Ireland have been clustered together due to lack of vocations coupled with dwindling attendances. The catholic church revealed last month that only eight priests would be ordained in Ireland this year.

The 2001 census in Britain showed that fewer than one in 10 people in Wales regularly attended church or chapel.

One of the first Indian priests to arrive in Britain was Rev Hmar Sangkhuma from the Diocese of Mizoram. He arrived in Wales in March from the northeast Indian state, which has a majority Christian population initially converted by missionaries from Wales between 1840 and 1960. It was then called the Lushai Hills district of Assam.

Sangkhuma has been offering spiritual guidance to the local Welsh population in Maesteg, near Bridgend.

During the colonial regime, Christian missionaries were encouraged to spread the gospel in India's tribal areas, including the northeast. Much of the work was undertaken by missionaries from Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Church leaders in India's northeast maintain close links with their counterparts in the West. The Mizos consider the Welsh Presbyterian Church as the 'mother church'.

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