Velankanni (Agenzia Fides) – About 40 Catholic pilgrims on their way to the famous Marian shrine in the city of Velankanni, in the state of Tamil Nadu, were attacked, insulted and beaten by a group of radical Hindu extremists. As Agenzia Fides learns, the local Church expressed its firm condemnation of the incident that took place on August 18th. The pilgrims come from the nearby state of Karnataka and were attacked by a group called "Hindu Munnani" who accused them of proselytizing.
Bishop Devadass Ambrose Mariadoss, at the head of the Diocese of Thanjavur, expressed bewilderment and condemnation, inviting the authorities in charge to intervene. The Bishop explained to Fides that the pilgrimage is an annual event that has been practiced for centuries. "This action carried out by Hindu radicals was completely senseless and gratuitous. Indian citizens are free to practice their religion according to the constitutional provisions of India. But this freedom has been reduced in recent times, as evidenced by the incident", said the Bishop .
Father L. Sahayaraj, deputy secretary of Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, told Fides that "the police must act strictly on the people responsible for the violence". After the incident, pilgrims filed a complaint with the police superintendent who arrested six people in connection with the case.
Another 200 faithful gathered from the same area and continued their walk towards Velankanni, expressing their faith and devotion to Mary. Velankanni is a famous Marian pilgrimage center in the Diocese of Thanjavur, in southern India, where millions of devotees visit the Basilica every year.
The history of the place dates back to the 16th century, when the Virgin Mary appeared to a lame boy, then in 1597 appeared again to a milk seller in Sundram. In the same years some Portuguese sailors sailing from Macao to Sri Lanka encountered a terrible storm in the Bay of Bengal and prayed to the Virgin and Mary, promising to build a church for her if they were saved. The Portuguese merchants landed safely in the area and began their devotion to Our Lady of Good Health who is venerated today in Velankanni.
Velankanni Catholic Shrine is considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India. Celebrations for the feast of the Virgin are scheduled between August 29th and September 8th of each year and gather thousands of pilgrims. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 22/8/2019)