Cologne (AsiaNews) Indian youths are taking part in World Youth Day in Cologne "to directly experience the traditions of different peoples" and to "show the vibrancy of the Catholic faith in our country".
In an interview with AsiaNews, Fr Alwyn D'Souza, executive secretary of the Youth Commission of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI) said: "The Commission is leading a 220-member delegation representing the 12 regions of the church in India and including regional representatives, priests and nuns. 11 August was Family Day and it was very interesting for us Indians to experience the traditions and the cultural diversity of different peoples." Fr D'Souza said the first official group, composed of 106 people, left India on 4 August while the second reached Germany on 7 August.
According to Albert Romanto, the secretary of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM), the event is an opportunity to "show the vibrancy of the Catholic faith" in India. Many youths met up in New Delhi before heading for Cologne to rehearse ethnic and tribal dances and songs and to try on traditional costumes which they took to Germany to enable other participants to understand "the colours and cultural variety" of India.
Mr K. John, one of the youths attending the WYD is 28 years old and he comes from the north-east diocese of Imphal. He "prepared himself with much attention" before leaving because the visit to Cologne is "not merely a trip".
"It should be a pilgrimage where I will have the chance to know myself better, to have an experience and thus to improve my contribution to the diocese where I come from." Catherine Geeta is 25 years and she comes from the diocese of Jalandhar in the north of the country. For her, the WYD is a great opportunity to meet people and to understand different cultures of the planet. Jennifer Fernandes, 24 years, is from Bombay. She says she is "curious and wanting to learn about the ways in which youths from around the whole world live their faith".
There will be many Indian youths in Cologne who are not travelling with official groups. The Jesus Youth, a movement born in the province of Kerala has sent 150 youths to Germany. CC Manoj, organization spokesperson, said the youths have defined the trip as a "pilgrimage of faith" because on 21 August, after the WYD draws to a close, they will stop by in Rome, Lourdes and other places of pilgrimage in Europe.
Not all Indian delegates are Catholic: a group of three women one Christian, one Hindu and the other Muslim have arrived from the western province of Gujarat. Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit who runs a centre for human rights in India is the main sponsor of this modest delegation. "An exclusively Christian presence would not be a proper representation of India. We want other nations to understand how even a multi-cultural co-existence like ours can be united and peaceful."
On the night of 17 august, a group composed of 45 delegates from the Neo-Catechumen movement will leave India. Sheldon Miranda, one of the participants, has already taken part in the WYD in Manila, Paris and Rome. He said: "When John Paul II died, I was devastated, for me his death was a personal loss. Since the election of Benedict XVI, I have a renewed desire to see him and hear him speak. I pray that he has the same charisma as his predecessor because I am already in awe of his intellectual prowess."