08/10/2005, 00.00
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Getting visas for six Nepalese youths to attend the WYD proves complicated

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/UCAN) – They already have a passport but no visa as yet. This is the plight of a small group of Nepalese Catholic youths set to leave for Germany to participate in the World Youth Day with the pope, to be held from 16 to 21 August in Cologne.

"We are staying in the Church of the Assumption in Kathmandu and praying that the German embassy will give us visas," said Santlal Murmu, one of six delegates chosen from five out of six parishes in Nepal. Murmu, a 23-year-old tribal youth, arrived in the capital on 26 July with another two youths, after a 16-hour bus ride along muddy roads from the east of the country. Monsoon rains are far from the only travel hazard: Maoist guerrillas often block streets and attack vehicles. Nonetheless, the youths' greatest fear is that they will not be granted visas by the German Embassy to make the meeting which will be presided over by Benedict XVI.

"Getting visas, especially to Europe, is a tricky business these days," acknowledges Salesian Father Martin Lakra, a Salesian priest of Indian origin who is youth chaplain for Kathmandu. "We have no guarantees (for visas – ed.note) because many Nepali youths are seeking to escape the difficult political situation and to go and work abroad illegally."

The Salesian, who will accompany the youths to Germany together with an Indian sister of the Congregation of Jesus, said they were all questioned by officials of the German Embassy and they were now waiting for visas. The youths are spending their time rehearsing traditional songs and dances and refining their skills on the sarangi – a Nepalese violin – in view of their public show at the Asian Youth Gathering on 17 August, the second day of the WYD.

None of the six delegates come from rich families or have ever been on an airplane before, according to Salesian priest Augusty Pulickal, the national youth chaplain. He said they were chosen because they have been actively involved in youth work for at least three years, intended to continue in this, and had at least a working knowledge of the English language, sufficient for travel and participation in international events. Monsignor Anthony Sharma, apostolic prefect of Nepal, said finances were limited: the Vatican is paying for the team's air travel, and a German priest is paying their registration fees.

All but the only girl in the group – 25-year-old Acharya – come from Hindu families. Acharya is the daughter of a catechist from Dharan parish in the east of the country. Another girl was chosen to attend but did not manage to produce the necessary papers for a passport. "We will leave in a happy mood and should be back in an even happier mood ... if we all get visas," said Augustine Thakuri, 16, the youngest delegate.

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En route to Cologne, Cambodian youths pray for Italians: "They have forgotten their faith".
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