12/07/2016, 15.30
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In Andhra Pradesh, believers from every religion give thanks to Mary for miracles received

The Gunadala shrine it is one of the most important Marian sites in all of India. It was founded by PIME missionaries who brought a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1928. A non-Catholic family thanked the Virgin for healing their child’s heart condition. Offering facial and head hair is a gesture of humility in praying to God.

Vijayawada (AsiaNews) – Believers from every religious background can give thanks for miracles they received at the Shrine of Our Lady in Gunadala Matha, Andhra Pradesh. The Virgin is especially honoured by “Non-Catholics who come throughout the year to pay homage to her," Fr William Jayaraju Eleti, rector of the shrine, told AsiaNews.

Located in the diocese of Vijayawada, the Gunadala Matha shrine was founded by the missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). In 1928, they brought the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and placed it on a hill "to protect the city and keep it closer to Jesus." Afterwards, the Fathers created a steep path that leads to the top of the mountain, on which stands a cross.

The place draws thousands of pilgrims all the time. "We do not know the precise number,” Fr William noted, “but we know that every Saturday and Sunday, the shrine is full of people. They kneel in front of the statue of Our Lady in the grotto, and pray with devotion all day, making promises of faith and pay homage for themselves and their families. The pilgrimage ends on the mountain, at the cross."

The shrine is one of the most important in all of India. Here "the faithful thank the Virgin Mary for the healing, the graces and support they received.”

"One day,” the rector said, “a non-Catholic family came to me and told me they wanted to thank the Mother. One of their children was suffering from a serious heart condition, and the doctor had told them that he would not survive. Instead the child is alive, and is healed after the whole family began to pray to Mary."

The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is venerated by "Catholics, Protestants, Hindus and Muslims, in their own way. For example, Hindus place offerings of coconut and flowers at the feet of the Virgin, in a token of gratitude."

Another form of veneration is the offering of facial and head hair from pilgrims, a widespread practice in the temples of Andhra Pradesh. "Some of them shave the whole head, whilst others offer only a few locks. Those who cut all the hair do so to bare themselves completely in praying to God. This is a symbol of great humble."

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