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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Our Lady of the Downtrodden

09/05/2007 12:31


Christians and Muslims against extremism, on pilgrimage to see Our Lady of the Downtrodded by Qaiser Felix

All is set for the annual pilgrimage to ‘Mary’s Village,’ near Lahore. The local archdiocese calls on the government for protection against extremism; still fear does not stop tens of thousands of pilgrims from coming.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – All is set for the three-day Annual Marian pilgrimage in the village of Mariamabad which brings together thousands of Catholics and Muslims for prayers and devotional activities. The Central Pilgrimage Committee of Lahore Archdiocese has announced that the theme of this year’s event is “Our Lady, Mother of downtrodden.”
Locally known as “Ziarat-e-Muqaddasa Mariam,” the pilgrimage will officially begin on Friday, but the number of visitors to the shrine has already increased considerably in the last few days.
Led by Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Faisalabad, the initial procession will set off from ‘Mary’s Village.’
The faithful, both Christians and Muslims, traditionally come to ask for a blessing and pray to the Mother of God, who is also much loved in Islam.
During the three-day event, men and women will line up separately to reach the statue of the Virgin and kiss her feet, waiting up to eight long hours. Traditionally they bring Mary gifts of garlands, crowns, necklaces and dupatas (a piece of cloth that covers the head and the upper part of the body).
“We are very well aware of the country’s situation regarding law and order and the growing extremism in the country”, Fr Andrew Nisari, vicar general of Lahore Archdiocese, told AsiaNews. “That is why we informed the authorities about the pilgrimage well in advance so they could provide us the appropriate security and protection.”
The pilgrimage is the work of Father Frank, a Belgian Capuchin who was later martyred. He founded the annual event in 1949 to honour the Virgin Mary on Her birthday, September 8.
Over the years the number of pilgrims has steadily increased reaching the tens of thousands in the last few years.
On June 23, 1974, a central committee was set up to organise the Marian pilgrimage under its first chairman, the then Archbishop of Lahore, Mgr Armando Trindade.