Some 250 destitute people have attended a four-day meeting organized by a Catholic group in India to highlight the plight of those abandoned in the street. Prayers, classes, songs and visits of bishops, priests and Religious marked the convention of Akasa Paravakal (birds of the air) at Thiruvambady, near Kozhikode. Father George Kuttickal of Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament started the ecclesiastical community, Friends and Birds of the Air, in 1993 to care for children and mentally disturbed people found in the streets. The community now has 116 centers across India where hundreds of volunteers look after the abandoned. Father Kuttickal honored volunteers during the function. Many of them are themselves former beggars. The community’s main activity is to find people left abandoned in the streets and treat them at its centers. The volunteers help those willing to return home. Monsignor Varghese Chamakalayil, vicar general of Bathery diocese, who attended the valedictory function, said begging can be eradicated if society followed Father Kuttickal’s example. “The first step in this initiative is to give space to the least in our mind,” the priest said. P.S. John, who heads the movement, said the program aimed to make the destitute “feel they are not the least” and create awareness about the plight among others. IA13298.1641
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