ROME, JAN. 17, 2012 ( India, regarded for a long time as mission territory, has become one of the countries that sends most missionaries abroad.

This was confirmed at a conference earlier this month in Bangalore, organized by the nation's bishops and panel of religious superiors.

Eglises d'Asie, the news agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris, reported that according to Indian Father Balthazar Castelino of the Foreign Missions of Paris, himself currently on mission in Madagascar, India's missionaries today are present in 166 countries.

The missionary, who is also administrative secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Madagascar, believes the number of Indian missionaries at present is about 15,000. A figure that "far from being exaggerated" looks like it will increase in the near future, said Father Castelino, who pointed out that today more than 214 religious congregations send members of Indian nationality to missions abroad.

The testimonies of participants and the statistics established at the congress also showed that the great majority of these missionaries are working primarily in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific area.

At the end of this first consultation, the participants published a statement stressing the need to create an official structure within the Church in India, which will make possible the formation and preparation of future missionaries, and also give logistical and financial support to evangelization ad extra.