By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, Sept. 30, 2019: A group of Syro Malabar Catholics in a Delhi locality has found a place to pray five years after a mysterious fire gutted a Latin church they shared.
“Thank God we have a place for our own now. We were moving from one place to another to attend Mass,” says Mary John, a member of the Oriental Church in Dilshad Garden, an East Delhi suburb.
John was among around 2,000 people who on September 29 attended the consecration of St Francis of Assisi Forane Church at Dilshad Garden
Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, the bishop of Faridabad diocese,who blessed the church, said in his homily that the new church has a special role to play in the multi-religious and multi-cultural society.
“All the ritual churches should come together to bring Christ’s message of love and peace to the people in northern India,” he added.
John and other Syro Malabar Catholics in Dilshad Garden used to share the building of St Sebastian’s Church under the Latin Archdiocese of Delhi until the fire gutted it in December 2014.
For the next two years the Latins and the Orientals offered Mass in an adjacent parish hall that escaped the fire.
Syro Malabar Catholics, migrants from the southern Indian state of Kerala, began settling in Dilshad Garden region from 1984 and the Latin church catered to their spiritual needs.
In 2005, Dilshad Garden was one of the nine personal parishes the Delhi archdiocese created for the Oriental Catholics and allowed the use of Latin churches.
The Delhi archdiocese renovated and rededicated St Sebastian Church in 2017, but the Syro Malabar Catholics stayed away as the Latin parish increased fees for the use of the church building. The Orientals then used the hall of a nearby convent of the Missionaries of Charity to conduct Mass and other services.
“We have been praying for years to have our own church and our dream has come true,” said Beena George, a daily Mass goer.
Welcoming the gathering, Father Martin Palamattom, parish priest, thanked the almighty for the new church and hailed the occasion as a milestone in the history of Syro Malabar Catholics in Dilshad Garden.
The new air-conditioned church with a seating capacity of 800 people took nearly three years to complete. The 30-million-rupee church has a basement, a balcony facing the altar on the ground floor. The second floor has a parish hall and the priests’ residence.
The major attractions of the new church is a stained-glass painting on the front top depicts St Francis of Assisi holding the crucified Jesus. Behind the alter hangs a huge crucifix of mural clouds.
Later addressing a public function, the archbishop said he wanted the new church to be a blend of modern and conventional styles.
“When people walk in to the church they should feel it is a sacred space and a place to pray,” the archbishop said in the keynote address.” At least one door of the church should be open always for the people to come and pray,” he added.
Political leaders including Rajendra Pal Gautam, Member of Legislative Assembly, and Anju Kamalkant, mayor of East Delhi Municipal Corporation, addressed the gathering.
Monsignor Jose Vettical, Former vicars Capuchin Father Mathew Joseph and Missionaries of St Thomas Father Kurian Kochottonnil too were present along with Capuchin Christu Jyoti provincial Father Binoy Joseph and Missionaries of St Thomas regional superior Father Santosh Olapurackal.