16 August 2016, The Tablet

Impoverished Hindu and Catholic families receive houses for Year of Mercy

Twenty-five families have been chosen to receive brick homes as a response to the Pope's Year of Mercy

Impoverished Catholics and Hindus in Ujjain Diocese are experiencing the Year of Mercy in a tangible way after the Bishop arranged for 25 low-income families to have brick homes built.

Bishop Sebastian Vadakkel is responding to the Pope’s invitation to Catholics across the world to engage in spiritual and corporal works of mercy this year, including feeding the hungry and housing the homeless.

According to Catholic news agency UCAN, India has nearly two million homeless people, many of whom live in cities or on the periphery of cities.

Bishop Vadakkel told UCAN that his diocese had already planned to build houses for the homeless but when the Year of Mercy was announced, “we thought there is no better occasion than this”.

At least half of the homes are being built for Hindu families. "God's love transcends barriers like caste, creed, religion and linguistic differences, hence we wanted to share this in its totality during the Year of Mercy," said the bishop.

Bherurla Verma, 51, one of the beneficiaries of the project, has lived for decades with his family in a small hut made of bamboo and covered with tarpaulin. He said: “This is the first monsoon season we can sleep without worries of the shelter leaking”. The family now has a one-bedroom house with a kitchen and living room.

Father Joseph Venattumattam, coordinator of the project, said they chose to help homeless families who owned land but were too poor to build a house.

He explained that buying land could be difficult for the Church as pro-Hindu groups might create hurdles and delay the project.

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