Mangaluru, Nov 27: Immortalizing the historic visit of the then Pope St John Paul II to Bajpe back in 1986, the shrine built in his memory was inaugurated and blessed in a splending ceremony at Bajpe here on Thursday November 27.
The St John Paul II Shrine was inaugurated and blessed by Apolistic Nuncio to India Dr Salvatore Pennacchio. He also blessed the statue of St John Paul II, which was gifted to Mangaluru by the Vatican City.
Soon after the inauguration, a solemn Mass was celebrated, led by the Nuncio, in the presence of bishop of Mangalore Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza, Udupi bishop Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo, bishop of Shivamogga Dr Francis Serrao, Beltangady bishop Lawrence Mukkuzhy, Puttur bishop Geevarghese Mar Divannasios, vicar general of Mangalore diocese Msgr Denis Moras Prabhu, Fr Jayanathan, who represented the Archbishop of Bangalore Dr Bernard Moras, and parish priests and nuns of Mangalore and Udupi dioceses.
In his homily, Dr Francis Serrao spoke about the life and times of St John Paul II and said that he had suffered much during the German Nazi regime and how he came to be known as the ‘Uncle of Poland’. “He was the first person from outside Italy to become the Pope. He even forgave even his attacker Mehmet Ali Agca who had shot him. He went to the jail and embraced Mehmet. We have to denounce the culture of death and embrace the culture of life,” Fr Serrao said, adding that St John Paul II had great devotion towards Mother Mary and always chanted the rosary even until his last breath.
The Mass was followed by a formal stage programme. Apart from the priests, the programme was graced by MLAs J R Lobo and Mohiuddin Bava, MLC Ivan D’Souza, former union minister Oscar Fernandes and his wife Blossom, advocate M P Noronha, president of Bajpe panchayat Pradeep Suvarna, president of Kolambe panchayat Vijaya G Survarna, parish priest of Bajpe St Joseph Church Fr Leo Lobo, assistant parish priest Fr Praveen D’Souza and others.
Addressing the gathering, Dr Salvatore Pennacchio said, “I feel very happy to be here to inaugurate my spiritual father’s shrine. Everywhere St John Paul II visited, he spread the message of peace. I bring peace and greetings from Pope Francis to the people. This is the first shrine in India dedicated to Pope John Paul II. I congratulate all the people who worked and contributed in building this magnificent shrine.”
Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo said, “John Paul II was canonized saint within 9 years of his death. As Pope, he made a number of journeys to various parts of the world. He was a messenger of peace, a guide to the youth of the world. I was first made bishop by him, I still have his sign of cross and rosary. I feel great devotion towards him. I considered him a saint even when he was alive. Whenever the media asked me about my meeting with him, I would say I had the chance to meet a living saint. This place was made holy after his visit.”
Oscar Fernandes said, “Today is a great day. I am happy that I am from this constituency, and it feels good to have this Shrine in my constituency. I had opportunities to meet John Paul II whenever he came to India. I was also the representative from India to attend the last rites. I had the chance to see the bullet that struck St John Paul II. I thank each and everyone responsible for the building of this Shrine.”
MLC Ivan D’Souza recalled the visit of St John Paul II and said, “When St John Paul II came to Mangaluru, I was involved in the preparations and tied the buntings and flags. I got into the crowd and was blessed by him. I decided to be his devotee now and will remain so in future also. This place has to grow, and that is possible only through people’s support. Let us work together to make this Shrine shine.”
MLA Mohiuddin Bava in his address expressed happiness at being part of the event and stressed on living together with harmony and peace.
Mangalore bishop Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza welcomed the guests and the gathering.
Ministers Abhaychandra Jain and Ramanath Rai also graced the event for a brief while.
Simon, who had received St John Paul II from airport and taken him around during this visit to Mangaluru, and Sushma Malli, wife of the late Manmohan Malli, who donated the 7 cents of land to build the Shrine, were honoured on the occasion.
Fr Leo, Fr Praveen D’Souza, donors, engineers and others involved in construction of the Shrine, Dr Salvatore Pennacchio and Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza were felicitated.
Bible software ‘Ephphatha’ was launched on the occasion.
Artist Calvin presented a painting of John Paul II to Dr Salvatore Penncchio.
Alwyn Noronha and group led the prayer at the beginning. A welcome dance was presented by the children of Bajpe parish.
Ivan Noronha, George D’Souza and Sidney D’Souza compered the event. Diocese Public Relations Officer, Fr William Menezes and Secretary of Pastoral Prishad, M P Noronha were present among others.