Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seeking God? Cardinal says, "Visit a Shrine"

Pope John Paul II on a visit to the Shrine of St Michael at Garagano, Monte Sant’Angelo in Apulia. The origin of the shrine goes back to the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century.

The late Pope John Paul II must have visited just about every Catholic shrine and place of pilgrimage in the world. In Italy, going by the number of plaques commemorating visits by him, no Catholic shrine or place of pilgrimage seems to have escaped a trip.

In an age where "Heritage" trips are increasingly popular and very big business, it is perhaps surprising that the Church has not tapped more into this longing by people to visits places of historical significance.

Instead of the phony and/or simplistic history that is peddled at many of the commercial sites, the Church has a great deal to offer.

Perhaps it is a hangover from the days of the Reformation, when the Church was criticised greatly (and perhaps with a measure of justice ?) about the commercial exploitation of what should be holy. Some of the relics on view were to say the least "suspect".

However recently, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, highlighted the importance of shrines at the International Consultation on Shrines and Pilgrimages held last week in Bangalore.

“Shrines are visible signs of god’s loving power. The spirit of God is present when believers make their hearts ready for him and go to sacred places precisely with this readiness," said Cardinal Toppo.

He pointed out that sacred places are recognized by all religious cultures and that they answer a need in people's hearts: contact with God.

Cardinal Toppo added: "We find [shrines] in the history of Christianity, right from the beginning; we have the sacred places where Jesus lived.

"In fact, Jesus himself went several times to Jerusalem to celebrate the great Jewish feasts. … Jesus' life is portrayed as a journey to Jerusalem, a pilgrimage."

"Christians, when they visit these places experience immense joy and … feel the presence of Jesus," the cardinal continued. "The shrines and pilgrimage places … are there so that we may be filled by his Spirit, hear the Word of God, and come to know Jesus … more intimately and love him more ardently."

The full reports are in:

Zenit: (Code: ZE07032127; Date: 2007-03-21)

Catholic. org

The Indian Catholic

Indian Catholic Bishops Website

Tourism, Shrines and Pilgrimages are dealt with by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People