A relic containing the blood of Pope John Paul II will now find a permanent place in Bandra’s Mount Mary Basilica.
The relic, a special gift from Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Vatican’s representative to India, comes ahead of the canonisation of the pontiff who died in 2005.
Archbishop Pennacchio, who led the mass on Sunday morning on the first day of the Mount Mary Fair, ended the ceremony by handing over the relic to basilica representatives.
He also presented a twoft statue of Pope John Paul II.
“This relic contains the blood of Pope John Paul II,” said Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio. “I present it to the rector of the shrine for devotion.”
Pope John Paul II had visited Mount Mary 27 years ago.
This is Archbishop Pennacchio’s first official visit to the city.
He is based in Delhi and was appointed as the Vatican’s representative to India in 2010.
“As the Pope’s representative in India, I bring to you blessings and greetings of our holy father,” he said.
“Let us pray in a special way for the gift of peace in Syria, the Middle East and every part of the world where there is violence.”
On Saturday night, Pope Francis had led a peace prayer vigil for Syria at the Vatican.
The Archbishop of the city, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who was also present for the mass, prayed that the “statue will remind us of the teachings and life of Pope John Paul II”.
“The gifts came as a surprise,” said Father Aniceto Pereira, vice- rector of the basilica. “The installation will take a few days.”
Basilica authorities also presented Archbishop Pennacchio with a gift in return – a threedimensional photo of the Basilica.
The Mount Mary Fair, also known as the Bandra Fair, is a series of celebrations to mark the annual Feast of Our Lady of the Mount, or the Feast of the Nativity of Virgin Mary.
More than a lakh visited the fair on the first day on Sunday, and for many, this time was particularly memorable.
“The archbishop has come all the way to specially pray with us so this time was more special than usual,” said Sharel Fernandes, 23, a software professional.
In a first this year, a new metal framework was installed outside the basilica to accommodate devotees during the mass.
“It is mainly to ensure a better view. It has a better design and better ventilation too,” said Father Nigel Barrett, head of the Catholic Communication Centre.