Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The elevation of Nepal to an Apostolic Vicariate is “Pope Benedict XVI's new year gift to the country, which won the status of a secular state only last June after being in the hands of Hindu kings for centuries.” This is what members of the small Nepalese Catholic community told AsiaNews after the Holy See announced Nepal’s elevated status on 10 February, along with the Episcopal appointment of the Prefect, Mgr Anthony Sharma.
Jitendra Ghimire, a Hindu physician who was a student of a Jesuit school in Kathmandu, told AsiaNews: “Elevating Fr Sharma to the rank of bishop is the real symbol of the liberation of Nepal, which has been genuinely converted into a secular state. I am a devout Hindu and attending a Jesuit school helped me: they explained to me that love, justice and compassion are the real ingredients of spirituality.” Thus, “I understood that defining my country as ‘Hindu’ was just a farce. The oligarchy that dominated simply exploited the Hindu religion to keep power without putting its teachings into practice.”
Bhante Girivargyana, a Buddhist monk, said he was “happy with the gift of a Catholic bishop. It is a wonderful coincidence that the first Capuchin priests came to Nepal in 1740s when the Pope was Benedict XV and now another Benedict has appointed its first bishop.”
James Thulung, a Protestant, recalled that currently in Nepal, “Christians number nearly one million out of a population of 27 million. The uniqueness of the Catholic Church has been its stress on education of all strata of Nepalese society and this has won it widespread reverence among the people.”
The Church built and runs 44 scholastic institutions and 16 social institutions where both religious and lay people work. The new Apostolic Vicariate has five parishes, six mission stations and 22 substations. There are 11 diocesan priests, 40 religious priests and 112 nuns.