The Mount Mary Fair drew to a close on Sunday, even as church authorities said the number of devotees visiting the church for the festival had shrunk this year, probably because the Ganeshotsav festival kept away a lot of visitors.
Father Aniceto Pereira, vice-rector of the Mount Mary church, said that he has estimated that the overall number of visitors had fallen by 30% this year. The Mount Mary Feast began on September 8, and came to a close on Sunday, with about 80,000 people visiting the fair on the last day.
“I think the numbers may have reduced owing to the ongoing Ganeshotsav festival. Usually, there is a window period of a few days between the two festivals, but this year, since they started together, we saw about 70% visitors for the fair compared to last year,” said Father Periera.
The number of visitors to the Bandra church on the first day of the fair went up to 1 lakh according to church authorities, while there were about 50,000 daily visitors on the other days.
The fair is known to draw people of all religions every year. Andheri resident Sheroo Engineer, 69, who is from the Parsi community, has been visiting the fair for the last seven years. “I have faith in Mother Mary since my husband was completely cured of his illness after I came to the church to pray to her,” said Engineer, who attended the novena on Thursday.
Archbishop of Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias conducted the penultimate mass for the Mount Mary feast on Sunday, and announced that he would leave for Rome this week for the first advisory council meeting with Pope Francis.
“I will be visiting Rome in a few days for very important meetings with the Pope. Pray for me and for the church,” said Cardinal Gracias, while addressing devotees at the end of the mass. Cardinal Gracias is part of the eight-member advisory council to assist the Pope in the matters of the Roman Catholic Church.
Highlights of the Bandra Fair:
The highlight of the fair this year was the relic of Pope John Paul II containing a drop of his blood that was presented to the Bandra church by Vatican ambassador Archbishop Salvatore Pennachio last Sunday.
This year, the prayers during the fair were focused on the issues of oppression of women as well as the volatile situation in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.