Christians, Hindus and Muslims from across Maharashtra continue to descend on St Michael's Church in Mahim to witness — what they believe — is a miracle.
The dark red patch around the heart on a painting of Jesus Christ has grown since it was discovered on Friday afternoon, and so has the queue around Mahim's packed streets. Hundreds of people visited the church by Saturday night.
Almost euphoric, people queued for up to six hours to spend just two seconds in front of the painting. They were allowed to touch and kiss the protective glass before being moved along. Many broke down after seeing the 'miracle', some wept and several fainted.
However, the Catholic Church in India denied this miracle. “The Church is cautious about declaring something a miracle," said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai. “God can work miracles, but it is too early to say that this is a miracle. It’s probably due to climate conditions from the monsoon. People should not get euphoric about this, but if it brings them closer to God, it is a good thing. I’ll visit the church soon to see it for myself.”
Clearly flustered by the unprecedented attention and a sleepless night, Parish Priest Father Raphael, stated that this was no miracle. “People can interpret it as they want to, but the picture is not bleeding and this is no miracle,” he said. Despite early chaos — when a stampede entered the church after the mark was first discovered — volunteers and police controlled the crowd and 500 metres long queue was formed. Ambulance crews were also on hand.
News of the ‘miracle’ spread fast and believers from Goa, Karnataka and Gujarat have made the pilgrimage to see the 3 by 4 foot painting. Several local schools gave children the day off to visit the church.
“It is a sign from God that Jesus has returned in this time of violence, sin and evil to give the message that he is dying for us again,” said David Serrao, a pastor at St Michael’s. “The blood started as a small red drop and was discovered by children playing in the church. It has now spread as Christ’s heart bleeds.” It is not just Christians that are flocking to Mahim. Large numbers of Hindus and Muslims are also coming to witness the image.
Maryam Shah travelled with her husband and three children from Malad. “I cried when I saw the blood,” she said. “We are Muslims but that does not matter when something like this happens. People of all faiths should appreciate the message.”