A senior Christian delegation from India, including two cardinals, is now in Israel on a week-long pilgrimage.
Delegation members include Oswald Gracias, Cardinal Archbishop of Mumbai (who also serves as President of Catholic Bishops of India and Secretary-General of the Federation of Asian Bishops), Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, who has just returned from Rome where he received his nomination as Cardinal from the Pope, and the world’s youngest Archbishop from Goa and Daman, Filipe Neri Ferrao.
The cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests are set to meet Director-General of the Ministry of Tourism Noaz Bar Nir to discuss the strengthening of relations between Israel and the Indian Christian community.
“Israel, the Holy Land with Jerusalem as its center, is a pilgrimage destination for tourists and groups from all over the world interested in a wide variety of religious, cultural and historical sites. India is the most popular source country from Asia for incoming tourism to Israel,” said Bar Nir of the Ministry of Tourism. “During the past few years, there has been significant growth in the numbers of Indian tourists visiting Israel. The huge market potential has yet to be fulfilled and therefore we continue to strengthen our relations with the Indian Christian community and with the local tourism industry in India.”
The priests will also visit Christian sites in Jerusalem and the Galilee and hold meetings with Patriarchs and Vatican representatives in Israel. Towards the end of their visit, the members of the delegation will hold a special mass in the Church of the Nations in Jerusalem, accompanied by some 1,000 Christians from across Israel.
The Ministry of Tourism announced that it will invest approximately $660,000 in 2012 to establish a new marketing representation office in India which will serve to dramatically increase the number of Indian tourists visiting Israel. In 2010 and 2011, some 40,000 Indian tourists visited Israel.