Karkala: Ocean of Devotees witness Proclamation and Dedication of St. Lawrence Minor Basilica, Attur
By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Pics by Alphonse Mendonsa
Bellevision Media Network
Karkala, 01 Aug 2016: The historic day in St. Lawrence Shrine in particular and Udupi Diocese in general dawned on Monday, 01 August 2016 as all the roads from the twin dioceses of Udupi and Mangalore led to the holy shrine to witness the solemn proclamation and dedication of the Shrine as Minor Basilica during the Holy Eucharist which was followed by public function.
Devotees had started arriving at the Shrine right from the early morning from different corners of the twin dioceses. Different parishes had made their own arrangements to come to the Shrine hiring private buses. Many travelled by their own vehicles with family members, while others hired private vehicles and many more by public transport.
The huge pandal with seating arrangement for nearly 12,000 devotees was gradually filled up by 9.30 am. By the time the Holy Mass started, more than 15,000 devotees filled the venue many of them finding place inside both old and new churches and still more standing in open space by the side of the pandal.
Prior to the solemn Eucharistic Mass, Rector of the Shrine, Rev. Fr. George D’Souza conducted the Novena Service in preparation for the titular feast of St. Lawrence which would be celebrated on 10 August 2016.
The Eucharistic celebration commenced at 10 am with the procession of priests, followed by Bishops and Cardinals.
Prior to the Mass, Most Rev. Dr. Gerald Isaac Lobo, Bishop of Udupi Diocese welcomed Archbishop of Mumbai, His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, the chief celebrant of the Holy Eucharist.
Archbishop Oswald Cardinal Gracias in his introductory remarks said that the elevation of the Shrine of St. Lawrence as Minor Basilica is a great honour not only to the Diocese of Udupi but also for Karnataka and India. He also said that St. Lawrence who is regarded as the ‘Saint of Miracles’ would shower his blessings on his devotees. His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias began the mass in Konkani.
Prior to the singing of ‘Gloria’, His Eminence Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, Trivandurum and President of CBCI, read the Proclamation Decree in Latin language. Thereafter he handed over the Decree to Rector, Rev. Fr. George D’Souza. The same Decree was read in Konkani by Most Rev. Dr. Gerald Isaac Lobo. Soon after reading of the Proclamation, ‘Gloria’ hymn was sung by the choir.
Most Rev. Bernard Moras, Archbishop of Bengaluru in his homily said that the elevation of St. Lawrence Shrine to the status of Minor Basilica and the Proclamation and Dedication of the same is an historic and spiritual event and conveyed his compliments to the devotees of Karkala and the Diocese of Udupi. Archbishop Bernard Moras traced the evolution of Basilicas in Rome from the time of Emperor Constantine. He further said that there are 1740 Minor Basilicas in the world out of which 22 are in India including the newly proclaimed St. Lawrence Minor Basilica at Attur-Krkala. He also explained the nature and characteristics of Minor Basilica and the privileges and conditions associated with a Minor Basilica.
Archbishop Bernard Moras narrated in brief the life and martyrdom of St. Lawrence and pointed out that the martyr lived according to the main theme of the Gospel of the day, that is, a grain of wheat will yield in abundance if it falls in the soil and dies.
There was exemplary discipline and devotion during the entire Eucharistic celebration. Over 15,000 devotees participated in the Holy Mass. Nearly 200 priests and 15 Bishops along with three Cardinals concelebrated the Holy Eucharist. Religious women belonging to different congregations were present during the Holy Mass.
Soon after the solemn Eucharistic celebration, the public function started at 11.45 am. Cardinal Baselios Cleemis presided over the function. Chief guests included: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai andCardinal Mar George Alencherry-Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Ernakulam. Guests of honour included: Most Rev. Bernard Moras-Archbishop of Bengaluru, Most Rev. Aloysius P. D’Souza-Bishop of Mangalore and other Bishops of India, Sri Pramod Madhwaraj-Minister for Fisheries, Sports and Youth Empowerment, Government of Karnataka and District-in-charge Minister, Sri Sunil Kumar-MLA, Karkala and Sri Gopal Bhandary-Ex MLA, Karkala. Besides these dignitaries, Rev. Fr. George D’Souza, Rector of St. Lawrence Minor Basilica and Rev. Dr. Lawrence D’Souza-Convener of Proclamation and Dedication Committee were also on the dais.
After the prayer song, one minute silence was observed for the repose of the soul of late Rakesh Siddharamaiah, son of the chief minister of Karnataka, Sri Siddharamaiah.
Sri Pramod Madhwaraj who had to leave the programme early to attend the funeral service of late Rakesh Siddharamaiah at Mysore, addressed the gathering first. He said that the pilgrimage centre of Attur-Karkala has been attracting devotees from all religions and from different regions. He expressed happiness on the Proclamation and Dedication of the Shrine as the Minor Basilica. This is the proud moment for the entire Udupi District and Karnataka State. He further said that the Minor Basilica of St. Lawrence at Attur-Karkala would be an example of communal harmony for the entire country.
Bishop Gerald Isaac Lobo in his welcome address in English, Kannada and Konkani said that he was privileged to welcome all the dignitaries on the dais and the devotees. As a mark of welcome the dignitaries on the dais were presented with saplings.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Unveiled the plaque about the Proclamation and Dedication of St. Lawrence Basilica, Attur-Karkala.
Addressing the gathering Cardinal Cleemis thanked the Almighty God for granting the privilege of St. Lawrence Shrine being elevated to the status of Minor Basilica by Pope Francis. He appreciated the good work done by Bishop of Udupi, Dr. Gerald Isaac Lobo. On behalf of the CBCI he congratulated the Bishop and people of Udupi Diocese for the Proclamation and Dedication of St. Lawrence Minor Basilica.
The Papal Flag was unveiled by Cardinal Mar George Alencherry. Speaking on this occasion he said that he had a great desire to visit the Shrine of St. Lawrence for a long time and he got an opportunity to participate in the Proclamation and Dedication of St. Lawrence Minor Basilica. He further said that the holy sanctuary of St. Lawrence may become an all-India sanctuary to which devotees from different parts of India may visit this Minor Basilica.
Archbishop Bernard Moras read out the special message from Pope Francis on the occasion of the Proclamation and Dedication of St. Lawrence Minor Basilica. On behalf of the Karnataka Bishops Council, Archbishop Bernard congratulated Bishop Gerald Lobo and people of the Diocese of Udupi.
Bishop Aloysius D’Souza of Mangalore read the message from the Apostolic Nuncio, Rev. Dr. Salvatore Penacchio. The chalice sent by the Apostolic Nuncio for this occasion was handed over by Bishop Aloysius D’Souza to the Rector of the Basilica, Rev. Fr. George D’Souza.
Sri Sunil Kumar, MLA of Karkala said that the Shrine of St. Lawrence falling in his constituency has been a centre of pilgrimage and by its Proclamation and Dedication as the Minor Basilica, Karkala has come to be known throughout the country and the world. He further said that he is proud to know that out of 22 Minor Basilicas in India one of them is situated in his constituency. He assured full cooperation with the authorities of the Minor Basilica for providing various facilities to the devotees who would be visiting the pilgrimage centre.
Sri Gopal Bhandary, former MLA of Karkala said that Karkala has historic importance. The annual feast attracts thousands of pilgrims irrespective of creed and caste. He further said that he has been visiting the shrine every year and has been impresed by the devotion, discipline and harmony among the pilgrims. The developmental work that has been going on at Attur under the inspiration of St. Lawrence and direction of Fr. George is really appreciable. He hoped that the Basilica of St. Lawrence would promote communal harmony in the district, Karnataka and the country.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias in his message said that it was a great joy to attend the occasion. Referring to the Pope, Cardinal Gracias said that Pope Francis has declared this year as the Year of Mercy and Compassion, so was St. Lawrence. He prayed that the devotion of St. Lawrence would spread more and more.
Bishop Gerald Lobo presented mementos to all the dignitaries on the dais. He also gave away mementos to the sponsors of the function.
Rev. Msgr. Baptist Menezes proposed the vote of thanks. The public function was compeered by Rev. Fr. Denis D’Sa, PRO of Udupi Diocese and Dr. Vincent Alva, Professor of English Literature in the Milagres College, Kallianpur.
Following the end of the public function, vegetarian lunch was served to all the devotees who had attended the Holy Mass and public function. Around 15,000 people received food peacefully and in disciplined manner served through around 30 counters.
The entire function of Proclamation and Dedication of St. Lawrence Minor Basilica including the Holy Eucharistic celebration and public function covering three and a half hours was well organized by the organizing committee and enthusiastically participated by thousands of devotees. Hundreds of volunteers and police cooperated in maintaining the order. This was an historic event witnessed by thousands of people directly with great devotion and awe and viewed by many more thousands at homes through direct telecast.