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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A New Indian Catholic Community in Israel

When one thinks about religious life in India, it’s usually Hindus and Muslims that come to mind. However, there is also a sizable Catholic minority in India. Over 17 million strong, Catholics in India make up 2 per cent of the population. The Catholic community in India is divided into 29 archdioceses and 128 dioceses and dates back to the arrival of Vasco da Gama at the end of the 15th century.

What does this have to do with Israel? Israel, like India, is a religiously diverse country; a place that over two thousand Indian Catholics have decided to call home. They live mostly in Israel’s urban centers such as Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Tiberias and Haifa.

Despite having masses they could participate in throughout the country, the religious life of the Indian Catholics living in Israel has recently become much better organized with the appointment of three Franciscan fathers from India as priests in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The new mission to take care of Indian Catholics in Israel is in addition to many other missions catering to diverse Catholic groups in the Holy Land. These communities include English, German, French, Polish, and Filipino speakers as well as many other linguistic and ethnic groups.

In addition to Israel’s Indian Catholic community, there is also a significant community of Indian Jews living in Israel. Most of the 85,000 Indian Jews in Israel immigrated to the country after it gained independence in 1948.