By Purushottam Nayak
Berhampur: More than 20,000 people of various religions, mostly Christians, attended the biggest Marian feast celebrated in Berhampur, a coastal city in Odisha state, eastern India.
Pilgrims from all over Odisha and neighboring states on November 27 thronged to the city, some 170 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, the state capital, for the Feast of Mary Queen of the Mission, known as the “Candle Feast” among local Hindus.
Santosh Sahu. a Hindu shopkeeper close to the cathedral, told Matters India that a huge number of people joined the procession with lighted candles because they believe it would bring them peace, joy and happiness. “I have a great respect for Christianity, which is a religion of peace, love and brotherhood,” he added.
Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur led the Mass at 10 am in the cathedral premises. Around 60 priests concelebrated with him.
“Mother Mary is mother of God and the Universe, she instructs every one of us today to do what Jesus wants us to do,” Bishop Nayak said in his homily. “Mother Mary is the first missionary and model of missionary we are here to imitate her and imbibe her virtues in our life,” he added.
Father Felix Nayak, the parish priest of Berhampur cathedral, said the shrine is the only pilgrimage center in Asia where the feast of Mary Queen of Mission is celebrated annually. Poor people come in large number to show respect, honor, and devotion to Mother Mary, he added.
Father Nayak said the feast began afterMother Mary appeared to Catherine Labore on November 27, 1830, to communicate about world peace.
Father Nayak said Christians from all over India India come the feast as it is the only church in the country dedicated to the Mother of Missions.
The candle procession that went around the city was preceded by the nine-day novena where priests from different parts of the state preached.
“The intercession of Mother Mary is powerful and I have received blessings from the Lord through her intercession,” Viki Sahu, a youth from the city, said.
For teenage girl Jhili Nayak Mother Mary is her help in her life, especially “every difficult moment.”