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Published Date: January 23, 2012
Tags: global, India, missionary presence, Paris Foreign Missions

A new survey by the Paris Foreign missions shows that a growing number of Indian priests and Religious serve in foreign missionary posts. The survey, which included information gathered from 226 out of 230 religious congregations and 42 of India’s 164 dioceses, showed that more than 8,800 priests and Religious are working as missionaries in 166 foreign countries. Father Balthazar Castelino, an Indian priest serving in Madagascar, conducted the survey last year during his sabbatical in India, with the assistance of Catholic Religious of India.

He said the survey found that 1,940 Religious priests, 226 diocesan priests, 159 religious brothers and 6,543 nuns are serving as missionaries in foreign lands. “India could turn out to be one of the first countries to have such a wide global missionary presence. In the second millennium, European missionaries shared their faith with the Indians, who are now reciprocating,” he said.

He added that the study did not include those serving abroad without consent of their bishops or superiors. Europe has the largest number of Indian missionaries simultaneously studying and conducting pastoral ministries, and a large number of Religious sisters have taken up health ministries especially in elderly care facilities, he said. Africa has the second-largest population of Indian ministries with 1,676, largely in Kenya and Tanzania.

Other nations with significant Indian ministries include Italy (1,972), Germany (1,425) and the United States (738), the survey found. “The number of Indian missionaries going to foreign countries has been constantly on the increase in recent decades,” Fr Castelino said. Sr Agatha Mary, superior general of the Apostolic Carmel congregation, said the survey might be the first of its kind to document foreign service by Indian Religious though “it may not be a complete one.”