DECEMBER 15, 2015
Catholic becomes priest of Shiva temple
A Roman Catholic is a Hindu priest in Jammu
By Rajesh Vidhyarthi, Jammu, June 27, 2008
A Roman Catholic, who visited India as a young boy for holidaying got so charmed to the people and their lifestyle in India that he decided to spend rest of his life and became a priest.
It’s been about 25 years when Giorgio first visited the Tamil Nadu State from Turin in Italy as a 14-year-old.
Giorgio has been drawn to Hindu philosophy. Despite being a Roman Catholic, considered to be conservative in their way of life, Giorgio has almost become a Hindu, as today he conducts prayers rituals at a local Shiva Temple in Chenai Tehseel in Udhampur district on Jammu-Kashmir highway.
He says that he was fascinated to Indian culture, Sufism and saints and this made him decide never to return to his native land and instead settle here.
“I was a Catholic by birth. People follow Christianity in my country. I used to go to church. I was in father’s service and we used to have knowledge discourses. I always used to ask Him how to attain proximity with the God and how He looks like. The father used to get amazed on my questions. I was five to seven years old at that time. I used to hear voice of prophecies that one day I will go far from here,” said Giorgio Saccheggiani.
Giorgion devoted himself to social work and over the years the local residents started calling Giorgio as “Italy Nath” (a God from the land of Italy).
In 1980, Giorgio arrived in Jammu city in north India from Tamil Nadu that is south India and decided to live a priest’ life and seek enlightenment.
Having settled down in Jammu, he learnt meditation and also devoted himself to the social service. His social service earned him immense goodwill among local residents.
Over the last 25 years, he has influenced a lot of people here and the local residents respect him as “Italy Nath”.
Giorgio narratess how during childhood he used to have dreams about the ancient structures of India just like he saw initially in Chennai, the State capital of Tamil Nadu and also about the cave shrine of Amarnath in Kashmir.
It was a coincidence that he first landed in Chennai and later moved on to Kashmir. And, he realized that his dreams had come true.
Neighbours and other local residents say that Italy Nath is more enlightened about Hindu philosophy than them. Hence he is lovingly called with names like Itali Nath, Italian Nath and Italian Baba.
“Italian Nath ji came here from Chenani about 28-29 years back. His behaviour with people is very good. His standard of living is very high. I meet him whenever I go to temple and I always feel like sitting with him and talking about various things because he is very knowledgeable. He knows more about our religion than most of us. He told me when he first put his feet on this land on his tour from Italy, it felt him as if he always belonged to this land,” said Pawan Gupta, a local resident.
Ajay Pratap, another local was of the view it is Hindu’s privilege that a Catholic Christian is looking after a temple, radiating communal amity in words and deeds.
“I know about Baba Italian Nath for past 28 years, when he came here. The most joyful thing is that even being a foreigner he accepted our religion. He promotes brotherhood. He has the capacity to take along the people of all castes and creeds and that is admirable. He always gives the preaching of brotherhood and national integration,” said Ajay Pratap, another local resident.
Italy Nath’s father Franco, who is an engineer by profession, and his mother on their visit to India were immensely delighted to learn about their son’s commitment to theology and social work.
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Documentary by Niccolo Ammaniti
With Baba Shiva Das, Eris Bindi, and Giorgio Saccheggiani