Nepal Gets 1st Catholic Pastoral Center

Small Flock, But "a Lot of Enthusiasm," Says Papal Representative

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KATMANDU, Nepal, JUNE 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The first Catholic Pastoral Center in this southern Asian nation has been inaugurated.



The new center, a compound of two buildings on a 5,000-square-meter tract, is in Godavari, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) south of the capital Katmandu. The facility is dedicated to St. John Vianney.

One building will serve for pastoral activity -- catechesis, youth formation, group meetings -- and the other will house the residence and offices of the pro-prefect apostolic in Nepal, Father Pius Perumana and his staff of four Adorers of the Most Holy Sacrament, a congregation of women religious from Kerala, India.

Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, apostolic nuncio in India and Nepal, traveled from New Delhi to open the center.

He stayed three days to visit the small Catholic community, which he described as "a little Church, but with a lot of enthusiasm," the Vatican agency Fides reported.

Some 80 people, clergy, religious and laity attended the Mass for the opening of the center, and many local Hindus joined for the festivities that followed.

Many Catholics were unable to attend the ceremony since the territory is militarized. Maoist guerrillas have been battling government troops, and over seven years a civil war has claimed 9,000 lives. Roadblocks and military posts abound.

The Catholic Church runs 23 schools in Nepal and many of the pupils are non-Christians. The local Church also provides instruction for some 35,000 refugees from Bhutan, living in refugee camps in east Nepal.

Catholic schools and institutions in Nepal have been affected by fighting in recent years between government troops and Maoist rebels. A civil war has claimed 9,000 lives in seven years. Government sources estimated that Maoist guerrillas have kidnapped more than 1,000 civilians.

Nepal has a population of 23 million, of whom 6,000 are Catholics. The Catholic mission was instituted in Nepal 1983, with territory taken from the Indian diocese of Patna. In 1996 it was made an apostolic prefecture, which today has four parishes.

To date, the Church has no juridical status. The Nepalese kingdom continues to regard it as a nongovernmental organization. Anti-conversion laws make the work of evangelization difficult.