Vijayawada (AsiaNews) – The Holy Door of Mercy "is the greatest gift given to people since the Church provides complete forgiveness of sins committed in one’s life. For this reason, people from all walks of life are rushing to pass through the Holy Door,” said Fr Rayappa, rector of Nirmala Giri Mary Matha, the Marian shrine in Eluru, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The shrine at Nirmala Giri, which means Our Lady of Health, is the spiritual centre of the Diocese of Eluru. It was inaugurated on 25 March 2000 and every year attracts thousands of pilgrims. "The opening of the Holy Door in our shrine has made the Church very important for pilgrims,” Fr Rayappa said. “Many people come here in search of spiritual comfort."
On 1 January Mgr Jaya Rao Polimera, bishop of Eluru, opened the Holy Door in front of thousands of people. As he inaugurated the Jubilee of Mercy, he invited all those present to "take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the Catholic Church."
The Missionary Sisters who run the Damien Leprosy Centre in Vegavaram began their pilgrimage the day after the door was opened. "It really is a great opportunity to receive forgiveness for all our sins and provide us the grace to be merciful towards others,” said Sister Vincent, MSI.
"In India, where people consider pilgrimages, shrines and immersion in river waters as acts of inner cleansing, the concept of entering a door to receive Mercy is an unusual idea,” said another nun. “Even Hindus and Muslims are coming here to experience God's mercy."
"Going through this door requires a genuine desire for conversion,” Fr Rayappa explained, “as one who seeks to cross over the threshold of Christ, from sin to grace, from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light. When one crosses this threshold, one is greeted by the loving experience of a God who consoles, pardons and instils in us a future full of hope.”
Even though the opening of the Holy Year was greeted by demonstrations of joy by the local community in Nirmala Giri, the Diocese of Eluru has been unable to open the Holy Door in the diocesan cathedral because of disagreements with some rebels and miscreants.
"This is really painful,” said a Catholic source, anonymous for security reasons, “because the bishop has not been able to enter the cathedral for some months”.
* Missionary of the Immaculate Conception, Congregation of women associated with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME)