Mumbai: Leprosy clinics and elderly priests homes on lock down, pilgrimages canceled
by Nirmala Carvalho

The "Vimala Dermatological Center" continues to treat patients but sends students home. Card. Oswald Gracias cancels the 32nd edition of the night pilgrimage. The home for clergy stops visits. The third Indian victim was from Mumbai.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The pilgrimage for peace, which has been taking place for over 30 years, has been canceled; the leprosy treatment center and the home for elderly priests has been lock down. The Archdiocese of Mumbai and the Catholic institutes operating in the area are enacting measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Meanwhile, the news of the third victim in the country, who died after contracting the infection, was a 64-year-old woman who lived in Mumbai.

The catholic centers closed to the public include the "Vimala Dermatological Center" in the Versova district, one of the most important hospitals in Mumbai for the treatment of leprosy. Sr. Bertilla Capra, missionary of the Immaculate Conception [female congregation associated with PIME], reports to AsiaNews that "the center remains open only for the care of patients, while the children have returned home. We are following all procedures and guidelines".

Founded in 1976, and directed by sr. Bertilla since 1981, the Center has been a point of reference for patients suffering from Hansen's disease in the megalopolis of Maharashtra.

In over 40 years it has treated thousands of people and offers treatments, plastic surgery and rehabilitation and physiotherapy services. The hospital assists 60 leprosy patients, mostly of Muslim and Hindu faith. In the adjacent student residence, the one that has been closed, the women religious have an education centre for about 80 poor girls.

Sr. Bertilla is originally from Bergamo, which has become teh worst hit Italian province by Covid-19. She says: “We are in contact via the telephone with the people of Bergamo are trying to protect themselves by staying at home, avoiding travel. My sisters are fine. From here we pray for the salvation of my fellow citizens and the whole world, we are united in solidarity prayer with them. Let us pray for them and for Pope Francis ”.

Card. Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI), has decided to cancel the most important religious event that has been held in the streets of Mumbai for 32 years: the "Annual All Mumbai Walking Pilgrimage for Peace", which was to take place on March 28th. Felix Sequeira, one of the organizers, said: “We didn't stop the pilgrimage even during the Mumbai riots. This is the first time".

The ceremony was scheduled to have begun at 22.30 with the blessing of the Cardinal in Cross Maidan, Dhobi Talao, to end at 5.30 the following morning at the basilica of Mount Mary in the Bandra neighborhood. The event gathers thousands of people every year who crowd the 20 km route.

In Bandra, the Clergy House, residence for the elderly priests, has also closed to visitors. Fr Friztgerald Fernandes, the director, reports: “We have blocked all visits because among us there are 16 priests over the age of 85 who already suffer from various pathologies. Our primary task is to protect the elderly priests who have served the Church and the faithful. We are taking all necessary hygiene precautions. Access is not permitted to street vendors or to delivery boys, who use the rear entrance precisely to avoid having direct contacts. The priests, as Card. Gracias has said, are 'burning fire of prayer'. They pray for India and the world."