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Indian diocese starts Lenten drive to help homeless

Mangalore Bishop House hits the stand with ‘Donate a Tile with a Smile’
Jobless laborers fill sacks with cucumbers in Karnataka state on April 6, 2020.

Laborers fill sacks with cucumbers in Karnataka state on April 6, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 23, 2024 07:11 AM GMT
Updated: February 26, 2024 05:41 AM GMT

A Catholic diocese in southern India has started a special Lenten drive – Donate a Tile with a Smile – aimed at building homes for the homeless.

“We have been working on this project for three years. So far, we have been successful in constructing 75 new houses and handed them over to beneficiaries in 2023,” said Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha of Mangalore (now Mangaluru) in southern Karnataka.

Bishop Saldanha launched the drive on Feb. 20. Anyone who donates Rs 10,000 (US$120) will be given a tile as a memento and those who give more than 50,000 rupees will be given a certificate, signed by the bishop, according to the Bishop House.

The diocese depends on local donations and the support of philanthropist Michael D'Souza for this project, Saldanha told UCA News on Feb. 22.

The diocese plans to build houses, each costing 800,000 rupees, and will provide 51 percent of the cost. The remaining sum will have to be mobilized by the local parish and the beneficiary.

The size of a house is between 650 square feet and 700 square feet. This scheme is available for those who have the land to construct a house.

‘It is primarily for Catholics. However, non-Catholics too can approach us,” the bishop said.

Saldanha has asked people to generously contribute to the drive as part of their Lenten sacrifice.

“Our dream is to ensure that every family in the diocese should have a roof over their heads,” the prelate said.

A 2019 diocesan survey found nearly 500 Catholics in the diocese without a house or living in dilapidated buildings.

The Canara Organization for Development and Peace, a diocesan social work unit, is handling the project.

The scheme will be a great help for many people who are unable to repair their old houses, said Father J B Saldanha, public relations officer of the diocese.

People contributed in the past three years during the Lent and helped the diocese build new houses, he added.

The port city of Mangaluru has a strong Catholic presence with several Church-run educational and healthcare institutions.

Christianity arrived in the coastal region with Portuguese missionaries in 1521.

Mangalore diocese has produced many missionaries and over 50 bishops, who work across India. Currently, 29 bishops and three archbishops from Mangaluru work in India.

Christians make up 1.87 percent of Karnataka’s 61 million people and 80 percent of them are Hindus.

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