Hyderabad: Asia’s biggest octagonal church ‘Shrine of Our lady of Health’ at Khairatabad has been decked up for the birthday of Mother Mary on September 8. While the novena and daily prayers are going on, a pontifical high mass will be celebrated by ArchBishop Thumma Bala on September 8. The church that was originally built during Nizam’s rule stands tall in a locality that has a fair mix of Hindus and Muslims as well.
The shrine’s parish priest, Father Sunder Reddy Gopu said, “In 1898, Captian Fallon, the then Commanding Officer of the 3rd Infantry of the Nizam’s army, permitted the construction of a chapel to serve the personnel in AC Guards. In 1903 the 3rd Infantry returned from Sholapur and was quartered here permanently.
The construction of the little chapel began in 1898 and was built with a cost Rs 3,500. It was rebuilt in May 1903 for the spiritual benefit of the Catholics belonging to the African Cavalier Guards (AC Guards) and to the 3rd Infantry. Though the rebuilt chapel was ready by December 1903, it was inaugurated on January 10, 1904 by Bishop Vigano to commemorate the golden jubilee of the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The chapel was originally known as the “Church of Our Lady of Divine Grace”
The annual feast of “Our Lady of Health” has been celebrated from the year 1904 at Khairatabad Church. The church has been extended several times since then.”
Speaking of Father Roch’s contribution, he said, “Fr. Roch’s devotion to our Blessed Mother is legendary. He sold off his family property in Malaysia and after giving away proportionate shares to his brother and sister, planned a unique Octagonal Church in honour our Blessed Mother. Its’ foundation stone was laid on December 27, 1954 by the then Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan Fateh Jung. It took five years to complete it and was inaugurated by the same Nizam after being blessed by Archbishop Mark Gopu, on September 15, 1959 in the presence of five other bishops.” The church was rebuilt again during the regime of Archbishop Samineni Arulappa.