05/10/2017, 16.11
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Celebrating Our Lady of Fatima in Maharashtra, in the first shrine built in Asia

by Nirmala Carvalho

The shrine was consecrated in Karjat in 1935. Its statue of the Virgin was brought by the Portuguese in 1920. Card Oswald Gracias of Mumbai will lead the celebrations on 13 May and bless the new altar. The cult of the Virgin begins to spread even among non-Catholics.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Our Lady of Fatima in Karjat, Maharashtra, the first shrine dedicated to the Our Lady of the Rosary in Asia, is preparing to celebrate the centenary of the Virgin's apparitions to the three shepherds next Saturday (13 May).

Worshippers are expected to come from five dioceses – Nasik, Pune, Vasai, Mumabi, and Kalyan. Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), will lead the liturgy.

"Devotees who come here are looking for consolation. They have great faith and are rewarded with miracles,” shrine rector Fr Calistus Fernandes told AsiaNews.

The statue of Our Lady was brought by the Portuguese in 1920, whilst the shrine itself was consecrated in 1935. Since then, the site has become a place of pilgrimage. On the 13th of every month, the faithful gather to mark the first apparition.

For Fr Calistus Fernandes, "among Our Lady’s many apparitions, the one in Fatima has a special meaning for the lives of many believers because her message of peace is so simple, and yet has tremendous power."

This year’s celebrations are more important because of the blessing of the new altar and Card Gracias’s proposal of making Karjat into the archdiocese’s shrine.

The presence of the cardinal is fundamental for two reasons, the priest said. "Whilst Pope Francis will be in Fatima for the [main] celebrations, we will have the head of the archdiocese here. Although we haven’t completed the new shrine building in time, the cardinal will bless the new altar and celebrate the first Mass."

The site is in a non-Catholic area and "officially only 40 families are registered as members of the place of worship. Local residents are not fully aware of the celebrations, but they know something important will happen on 13 May."

"Some non-Catholics participate in the prayers we organise every month,” Fr Calistus Fernandes said. “People are getting to know Mary better. The Virgin is not worshiped, but venerated."

As it prepares for the event, the shrine has organised a novena of votive prayers that will culminate with the liturgy on the 13th. After the Mass, the act of consecration of families to the Immaculate Heart of Mary will take place, followed by the Eucharistic adoration.

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”