For the past 20 years, Vakola resident Gabriel Pinto has spent most of Good Friday walking in the sun as part of a long, packed procession of Christians, with the firm faith that this annual pilgrimage is what brings peace to his home and success in his work life.
This year, as the 52-year-old walked all the way from Khar’s Sacred Heart Church to Vakola Village in Santacruz East, he prayed for the victims of anti-Christian violence in Karnataka and Orissa in the past three years.
“Instead of keeping quiet about such attacks, we need to unite as a community and convince others that we are peace-loving people and we do not enforce conversions,” said Pinto, a home tutor, referring to this year’s theme for the annual Good Friday pilgrimage organised by The Cross, a non-profit group that has been holding this march for the past 24 years. “Our procession is itself an embodiment of our unity.”
Roma Alphonso, one among more than 8,000 Christians who participated in the pilgrimage on Friday, also spared a prayer for the protection of Mumbai’s crosses which were served demolition notices by the civic body two months ago.
“Their attempts to destroy ancient crosses is also a form of violence,” said Alphonso, a receptionist from Vakola, who took part in the 8-km walk from 11am to 4.30pm chanting prayers.
For Alphonso’s 20-year-old daughter, Vanessa, the march was more a form of paying personal penance – this was the first year that she walked the entire distance barefoot.
“The roads were very hot and after a point all I could feel was pain. But, I see it as my sacrifice for Jesus,” said Vanessa, a third-year science student.
Meanwhile, churches across the city held special Good Friday services showcasing the Stations of the Cross, a series of prayers narrating the final episodes of Christ’s life and sacrifice.
“Through these services, we try and bring out the relevance of these stories to the present day,” said Father Savio Fernandes, a priest at the Archdiocese of Mumbai, Colaba.