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Indian Catholics dedicate grotto to mark Year of St. Joseph 

Thought to be the country's first grotto to the saint, it stands at a junction connecting the state with Assam and Myanmar

Indian Catholics dedicate grotto to mark Year of St. Joseph 

Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao talks to Catholics after the blessing of grotto at the Namchik-Balinong junction in Changlang district on March 20 (Photo supplied).

Catholics in India's Arunachal Pradesh state have established a roadside grotto on the India-Myanmar border, marking the Vatican-designated Year of St. Joseph.

The St. Joseph roadside grotto, thought to be India's first, stands at a prominent junction that connects the state with Assam and to Pangsau Pass in neighboring Myanmar.

Miao Diocese, which initiated the project, held a small celebration on March 20 where youth,  women and religious gathered for the blessing. They took part in prayers, which included a St. Joseph’s Rosary, Litany of St. Joseph, and a special prayer for the Year of St. Joseph.
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“This may be the first of its kind in the country and I am happy to bless this grotto and dedicate it to the Year of St. Joseph,” Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao said at the ceremony.

“The Grotto at the Namchik-Balinong junction in Changlang district will not only be a landmark but an import prayer-point for people traveling along these roads,” the bishop said.

The grotto is a “collective response” from a group of generous local people in Kharsang “who responded to Pope Francis’ call to reflect on the silent role of St. Joseph,” said Father Felix Anthony, public relations officer of the diocese. 

Senseng Jugli, a local businessman donated the land, Chumkam Thungkhang funded the construction of the grotto and Betty Joseph of Krick and Bourry Hospital gifted the statue, Father Antony said.

The priest also said that the diocese has planned a series of events such as retreats, a pilgrimage, and seminars to mark the Year of St. Joseph. This roadside grotto was the first event.

Pope Francis has declared 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph to mark the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as the Patron of Universal Church. 

The pope issued an apostolic letter, Patris Corde (With A Father’s Heart), in December last year dedicating Dec. 8, 2020-Dec. 8, 2021 to St. Joseph.

Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China, Bhutan, and Myanmar, is a state with predominantly ethnic indigenous groups who make up most of its more than 1.5 million people. About one-third of the population are Christians including Catholics and Baptists.

Christianity in Arunachal dates back to the 19th century when French Missionaries Nicholas-Michel Krick and Augustin-Etienne Bourry brought the faith to local ethnic communities.

The missionaries were members of the Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris, or the Society of the Paris Foreign Missions (MEP).

The priests were killed by Kaisha, the chief of the Mishmi community, on Aug. 2, 1854, at Somme, a Mishmi village now in China. Mishmi is one of 26 major indigenous communities of Arunachal Pradesh, mostly residing in Anjaw district of the frontier state bordering China.

Krick, 34, and Bourry, 28, were buried in the same village where they were killed during a stopover to tend to local sick people while on their way to Tibet. 

According to descendants of the Mishmi villagers who subsequently settled in Anjaw district, Kaisha was jealous of the growing popularity of the two priests so decided to execute them.

In 2016, Miao Diocese opened its first hospital at Injan and named it the Krick and Bourry Memorial (KBM) Hospital.

In 2017, the diocese sent a proposal to the Vatican for the canonization of Krick and Bourry, paving the way for the possible sainthood of the French missionaries. 

The Church in Arunachal has experienced remarkable growth since the arrival of Salesian missionaries in neighboring Assam in 1922. Various religious and education institutions sprang up and the Church started to gradually welcome the people of the region to a new life of faith and inclusive development.

Currently, there are about 91,000 Catholics in Arunachal Pradesh.


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