A novena of prayers preceded the celebrations. Marian devotion in the diocese dates back to the 1940s. for Card Gracias, Our Lady’s “message of peace” is even more important today.
Belgaum (AsiaNews) – More than two thousand people participated with joy and devotion to the centennial celebration of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Belgaum, Karnataka.
For the occasion, the diocese organised a novena of prayers and three days of celebrations, culminating in a Eucharistic service on 13 October, the day of Mary's last apparition, when she delivered her “message of peace" to the three shepherd children, Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco. Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, led the service.
"Mary’s message is every more relevant for us today,” said the prelate. “Pray, make penance and make sacrifices, pray the rosary for peace, pray the rosary for peace in the family, pray the rosary for peace in the world.”
A special religious service was held in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima. The previous evening (12 October), a torch lit procession made its way through the streets of the city with the faithful carrying the statue of Our Lady.
At St Joseph's Convent, ten bishops and archbishops, 150 priests and 200 nuns attended the Mass, which was open to the public. The cardinal led both moments of prayer.
“Mother Mary [. . .] appeared to the three shepherd children in Fatima on the 13th of every month from May to October 1917. That was during World War One,” Card Gracias said.
“She appeared to the world to give the message of peace, love and harmony. With unrest around the globe, which is on the rise every passing day, the situation is not different today”.
In the Diocese of Belgaum, Marian devotion dates back to the 1940s, even before the erection of the cathedral, which was named after Our Lady of the Rosary.
Fr Patrick Peyton, a Holi Cross priest who was the first clergyman to promote the devotion, urged people to recite the Rosary following the motto ‘The Family that prays together, stays together’.
Later, a Canossian nun from Italy, the Venerable Mother Fernanda Riva, whose canonisation is underway, is said to have been the first person to carry the statue of Our Lady during a procession in 1947.
The Diocese of Belgaum was established in 1953. Its main church, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Family Rosary of Fatima, was consecrated in 1958.
* Bishop of Belgaum
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)