07/09/2005, 00.00
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Nepalese Catholics celebrate the Year of the Eucharist

In Nepal too, despite internal tensions between the army and Maoist guerrillas, Catholics have come together to celebrate the Year of the Eucharist.

Deoniya (AsiaNews/UCAN) – More than one million Catholics hailing from three parishes in the east of Nepal braved the country's internal revolt to participate in a meeting, "Eucharist for Peace", which took place on 2 July in Deoniya, some 285km south-east of the capital Kathmandu.

The meeting was organized by the three parishes of Damak, Deoniya and Sharan, which got together – notwithstanding internal unrest – to mark the Year of the Eucharist instituted by the deceased pontiff John Paul II.

Mgr Anthony Sharma, apostolic prefect of Nepal, was among the participants. He said: "Before leaving to come here, I was anxious about the political situation in this part of the country. Now I am here, I am happy to see a large number of faithful attended and the program was a success."

Some participants described the trip to reach the prayer meeting as "not easy". Many had to pass through many checkpoints set up by the army and Maoist guerrillas, who launched an insurgency in 1996 to create a "communist republic" in the country. More than 12,000 people have died since then, and over 10,000 since the beginning of 2001, when clashes intensified.

The schedule of the activity included a procession, masses and cultural programs. During the procession, participants recited the rosary and sang hymns in their local dialect. After the procession, 12 priests concelebrated mass with Mgr Sharma. During his homily, the prelate highlighted "the importance of the Eucharist, capable of transforming the lives of people."

Forty-one-year-old James Toppo, who has been a catechist for 19 years, said: "This is the first time that an activity of this kind takes place in Nepal. The event is very important for Catholics in Nepal, because it serves to reinforce our faith and gives Catholics the courage to practice their faith openly,"

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