Mumbai: Mount Mary Basilica Door of Mercy closed

Protests trigger closure; Bishop Agnelo says no yielding to pressure

There was high drama amidst the divine at Bandra’s Mount Mary’s Basilica yesterday morning. The faithful who had come to walk through the ‘Door of Mercy’ were forced to return without obtaining a plenary indulgence (remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins).

Many Catholics from across the city who came to the Basilica had to face the closed Door of Mercy. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Many Catholics from across the city who came to the Basilica had to face the closed Door of Mercy. Pic/Nimesh Dave

The ‘Door of Mercy’ was shut because a group of protestors had congregated near the Door. The protestors, three amongst them who claim to be on a ‘fast unto death’ are on the warpath claiming corruption and mismanagement by church authorities.

Wilma D’souza Shirke and her family, parishioners of Good Shepherd Church, Four Bungalows, Andheri, who had arrived to Mount Mary to walk through the Door were shocked. Wilma said, “We were taken aback at the closure.”

Like Shirke, Tomazinho Pinero who had come along with his family was disappointed. “My children had a school holiday, so we came to walk through the Door. The other Door of Mercy is at Holy Name Cathedral in Colaba. We live at Malad, so that is a real distance. We were only able to pray in the Church. I hope God shows us mercy, we wanted to walk through the Door.”

When we visited the spot, we saw that the Bandra Church’s Door of Mercy had a notice saying that it is temporarily closed. A group of 15 people were sitting by the door of the Church. Amongst these were Rupesh Gomes, George Miranda and Darryl D’souza who are fasting, against what they claim is corruption by the church. The Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) and Catholic Residents Organization for Social Service (CROSS) are leading this fast, which began on Sunday.

Joseph Sodders from AOCC said, “There is corruption at Mount Mary’s. Nobody knows what happens to the jewellery and saris that are donated to the Church. The priest, Monseigneur Nereus Rodrigues is 90 plus, as per Cannon law he should have retired at 75.”

Gomes and Miranda say they have only been drinking water and have shunned food. D’souza who works at a call centre, fasts from sunrise to sunset but does eat post sunset. “We sit here, sleep here and pray. People are blaming us for the closure. We want people to come and receive God’s mercy. This is not for publicity, we are fighting for a just cause,” said a weak Gomes who was put on drip on Tuesday, April 5.

Vincent Nazareth, who is supporting the fast said, “This was not spontaneous but a planned protest. The fast goes on till we get a clean church. Anna Hazare fasted for so many days, this agitation has just started.”

Fr. Aniceto Pereira, vice-rector of Mount Mary’s Basilica said, “We have not received any official information of the fast details. The Door of Mercy is closed since they were sitting there and inconveniencing people. I am unsure when it will reopen.”

Bishop Agnelo Gracias, Auxilury Bishop, Archdiocese of Bombay said, “It is a shame that the fast is on in a shrine. They should have had it at the Bishop’s House. We are ready to dialogue with them. The fast is not the best way to get their demands met. The Archbishop was willing to meet them on Thursday evening, but they did not come. We will not yield to pressure in any way.”

With the issue deadlocked, the Colaba Door may be the only Door of Mercy in the city open right now, for those who seek remission.

About the Door of Mercy
>> The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a Roman Catholic period of prayer held from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), 2015 to the Feast of Christ the King (November 20), 2016.

>> The holy doors of the major basilicas across the world were opened, and special ‘Doors of Mercy’ were opened at cathedrals and other major churches.

>> The Archdiocese of Bombay opened its second Door of Mercy at Mount Mary’s on December 20, 2015 as Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias presided over the ceremony of the opening of the Door of Mercy.

>> On December 13, Auxiliary Bishop John Rodrigues of Bombay opened the Door of Mercy at Holy Name Cathedral in Colaba.

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