Rajarampur, the Easter Triduum at the shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii (Photo)

Fr Gianantonio Baio is the rector of the pilgrimage site. The sanctuary was founded in 1999 and entrusted to another PIME priest. About 400 Catholics take part in the celebrations. The permanent presence of a religious "welcomed with great gratitude".

Dinajpur (AsiaNews) - "It will be a great celebration, preceded by moments of prayer and Eucharistic adoration”, says PIME missionary Fr. Gianantonio Baio, 73. Since October of last year the bishop of Dinajpur has called him to be the rector of the Marian shrine of Rajarampur, dedicated to Our Lady of Pompeii. "The faithful could not wait for a priest to arrive - he explains - because there was no stable priest here since 2014. Their joy was great when I arrived. And now, for the Easter Triduum, at least 400 Catholics are participating”.

For this Triduum of Easter, the missionary has organized a full program for local Catholics, all of tribal origins. "We started Holy Thursday at 6 pm with Mass in Coena Domini, during which the washing of the feet of 12 faithful took place. Later we gathered in adoration until midnight. Yesterday at 7 o'clock we celebrated the Way of the Cross on the streets of the village. In the afternoon around 3 there was the celebration of the death of the Lord and in the evening the screening of the film 'Jesus of Nazareth' by Franco Zeffirelli ". "I also managed to find a Bengali version," he says happily. "Then, at 8:00 am, the great Easter celebration begins with the lighting of the candle. Finally on Sunday morning we will celebrate Easter Mass, all together in joy ".

The shrine of Rajarampur was erected in 1999 in memory of the extraordinary Jubilee of the Redemption of 1983-1984. It is about 4 km away from Suihari (Dinajpur), and is a sub-center of the diocesan cathedral parish. Immediately after the construction, it was entrusted to Fr. Cesare Pesce, also from Pime. Then, after his death, "in 2004 to Ettore Caserini, a brother of PIME, who remained until 2014, when he had to leave because of problems related to his age. Since that year the sanctuary has remained without a rector. The parish priest of the cathedral of Dinajpur came to celebrate Mass twice a week. Today, however, the liturgy is celebrated every day".

Fr. Baio reports that the sanctuary is "a special place, a famous pilgrimage destination to the Virgin of the Rosary. Everyone is revered as an important place of worship and even the Muslims of the area, who are the majority, have great respect ". "In October - continues - in the month dedicated to Our Lady, they come loyal to the whole diocese. In the annual festival of last October 27th there were more than 11,000 people gathered in a very beautiful atmosphere of prayer ".

About 400 Catholics live in the area, according to the missionary: "In the nearby village there are 90 families of faithful and in another about 70, as well as a community of Korean nuns who run a hostel for girls". On his missionary service, he says: "I accepted this task at the age of 73 and the faithful welcomed me with immense gratitude. In me the missionary spirit of witness was renewed once again in a territory with a great Muslim presence ".

The permanent presence of a priest, he points out, "has favored the request of many people and groups of nuns and students to carry out their spiritual retreat here during Lent. As a father I accompanied them on a journey of reflection, silence, confession and liturgical prayer ". All this has "happened thanks to the fact that the permanent presence of a priest has been reactivated, which has pushed so many to come because they know they can find someone to welcome them".

The shrine also attracts Muslims, "who come to visit the place in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We live in friendship and mutual understanding. Also I have been well received by the local population. This is a holy place of pilgrimage, and I am available to have a chat with everyone ".