Indian Catholics attending World Youth Day in Madrid say that they are enjoying the feeling of not being a minority, even if it’s only for one week.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said 32-year-old Vivek Machado to CNA.
“We’re only two percent of the population in India but you only really realize the size of our religion, the Catholic religion, which is the biggest religion in the world, when you come here and meet so many people from across the world.”
Machado is in Madrid this week with a group of 200 youngsters from the city of Mumbai in western India. CNA met them as they made their way to a catechesis session at a church in central Madrid. In total, there are approximately 1,000 Indian pilgrims in the Spanish capital this week.
“It’s great. We’ve been to a lot of places,” said 24-year-old Sandia Furtado from Mumbai. “We’ve been to Italy, and before that we came through Catalonia as part of the ‘Days in the Diocese’ scheme.”
Days in the Diocese is a program that dispersed over 130,000 young people across Spain’s 65 dioceses in the week prior to the actual World Youth Day gathering.
“Everyone is one and everyone is equal over here. We’re one,” said Furtado. “We don’t usually get the chance to meet with young Catholics from all over the world so this is the time and this is the place -- and we’re making the best of this week,” she said.
Although Catholics are only a small percentage of Indian society, the presence of the Church is magnified through its extensive involvement in education, caring for the poor and health care.
The roots of the Christian faith in India are also ancient. It’s a widely-held belief that Christianity arrived on the subcontinent in the first century with St. Thomas the Apostle.
“It’s really overwhelming, it’s really amazing, it feels awesome,” said 17-year-old Sabrina Young, a schoolgirl from Mumbai, who is attending her first World Youth Day.
Young says that her experience has been so incredible because “there are very few Catholics in India, but everyone here is Catholic, everyone is together, is one, and is doing the same thing.”