Melbourne, July 14 : Thirty-two Indian catholic pilgrims have gone missing during a stopover in the New Zealand capital, Wellington, en route to Sydney to see the Pope at the World Youth Day celebrations.
According to Labour Department officials in Auckland, the missing 32 are among a group of 220 Indian worshippers given a one-month visitor visa this month.
Immigration officials said they along with the Auckland-based Catholic Church were trying to find the pilgrims who absconded from the church billets and homes they were staying and do not have their passports with them.
New Zealand Catholic church spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said the pilgrims arrived in New Zealand early last week, where local Catholic parish representatives met them.
"Some of them cleared customs and sort of disappeared and nobody saw them. That was a very tiny number of the 32," Freer said, adding that there was no reason to believe that they were not genuine pilgrims.
Pope Benedict XVI, 81, will join the festivities on Thursday for the World Youth Day, which begins on Tuesday.