The Vicariate for Migrants and Asylum Seekers in Israel (VMAS) serves the Migrant Worker and Asylum Seeker population in Israel. Some estimates place the total number of migrants and asylum seekers in Israel at 100,000 Roman Catholics, who are spread, in different localities of the country, from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south. The Migrant workers are from the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, parts of Africa (French and English speaking), Latin America, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Vietnam and China. Asylum Seekers are predominantly from Eritrea who fled from war, hunger, conflict, and other difficulties in their home country.
Fr. Matthew Marcel Coutinho is a Salesian priest from India belonging to the Mumbai Province. He was born in Ahmadi (Kuwait) on 21 September 1961. He entered the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1978 and made his first religious profession on 24 May 1979. He was ordained a priest on 24 March 1990 in Mumbai. He obtained his M. Ph. from Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, (Pune) in 1984, and his Licentiate (1999) and Doctorate (2006) in Moral Theology from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome. He has been a formator and taught for a number of years in various Salesian philosophy and theology centres in India.
Between 2006 and 2009, he was pastor in Don Bosco Parish, Nashik – India. Since 2015 he is professor of Moral Theology at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum (the Jerusalem Campus of the Salesian Pontifical University – Rome). He is also on the formation team of the Salesian Ratisbonne monastery coordinating the pastoral activities of the seminarians. From 2016 he has been priest-in-charge of the St. Therese of the Child Jesus community, Rehovot and has also been involved with various other ministries for the migrants in Israel. Over the years the Salesian Ratisbonne monastery has offered sacramental services and spaces for different migrant communities every weekend. The priests and brothers serve in various other migrant centres in and around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.