» 09/12/2011 18:20 INDIA Hindu nationalist BJP leader LK Advani prays at Marian shrine by Nirmala Carvalho On the feast day of the Holy Name of Mary, the political leader placed a garland of red flowers, plus two candles at the foot of the statue of the Virgin. Since the start of September, 15,000 pilgrims have visited the shrine, only 30 per cent Christian. “The devotion of Our Lady transcends religious boundaries,” said Basilica vice rector.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Shri L.K. Advani, a former leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJ), a Hindu nationalist party, visited the Marian shrine at Mount Mary's Basilica in Bandra, Mumbai, where he placed a garland of red flowers and two candles at the foot of the main altar below the statue of Our Lady. Out of reverence and devotion, he prayed for a few minutes. Along with the Basilica’s Vice Rector, Fr Aniceto Pereira, he recited the Memorae. Fr Pereira gave him as a gift a book on the history of the shrine written by Mgr Francis Correia.
The visit has surprised many people given the fact that the BJP is often seen as the moved of anti-Christian violence. Speaking to local media, LK Advani said that local BJP leaders had invited him to visit the shrine. He also said that he is an alumnus of the St. Patrick High School in Karachi, which is run by the Irish Christian Brothers. "Since I have links with the community, I feel happy coming here, meeting the priests here, participating in the prayers and getting the Blessings."
“LK Advani showed great respect for our shrine and religion,” Fr Aniceto Pereira told AsiaNews. “A political leader who asks for God’s grace and help means a lot to us.”
“I prayed to God to guide our leaders and bless them,” the vice rector added. “I know that Christians in other states face a security threat, but the BJP leader came here as a pilgrim, full of faith to ask for Mary’s blessing and grace.”
The Marian shrine in Bandra is a place of harmony and interfaith dialogue because the Virgin draws people of all creeds.
“Since the novena began on the 2 September (leading up to Mary’s Nativity), more than 15,000 people have visited the shrine daily. Just 30 per cent of them are Christians, the rest belong to other religions.”
“Through Mary’s intercession and motherhood, people celebrate their shared humanity: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Parsees, Sikhs and others. They all share with me the miracles Mary brought to their life. Devotion to Mary transcends religious boundaries,” he explained.
In Bandra, the feast of Mary has been strongly associated with the statue of Virgin Mary at Mount Mary's Basilica for several hundred years.