Praying for peace in Tamil Nadu’s “Saint Mary Major” shrine

Archbishop Card Anthony Poola of Hyderabad led celebrations at the Shrine of Periyanayagi Madha in Konankuppam, marking the bicentennial of its great belfry. He called on the faithful to pray “for peace in the world,” but also “in our families, in our villages,” and learn to be united.

Oct 04, 2022


By Nirmala Carvalho
The recent celebration at the Marian shrine of Konankuppam in Cuddlore, a district in Tamil Nadu, provided an opportunity for several thousand Indian pilgrims to join the prayer invoked by Pope Francis for peace in the world.

The event was particularly solemn this year as it was the bicentennial of the shrine’s belfry, marked by placing a statue of the Queen of Peace at its base as a reminder of the link between this place and the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) in Rome.

Italian Jesuit missionary Fr Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi (1680-1747) was behind the shrine, which he called “Periyanayagi Madha”, which means Saint Mary Major in the Tamil language.

Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad, who was recently elevated to cardinal, led the service along with Archbishop Francis Kalist of Pondicherry-Cuddalore and other priests.

“Konankuppam is the abode of 200-220 families and a vast majority of them are Dalits; however, it doesn’t stop the people of other castes and religions visiting the Shrine of Our Lady Peiryanayagi,” said Fr Z M Devasagayaraj, the rector of the shrine, speaking to AsiaNews.

The “shrine is famous not only for the miracles people experience, but also for the unique and amicable interreligious relationship that exists here as the shrine was built by a still-practising Hindu (and by Fr Beschi) about 300 years ago due to the intervention of Mother Mary in his dream.”

In his homily Card Poola said that Mary is never deaf to those who pray to her, as evinced by the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Lourdes, Fatima, Veilankanni, as well as Konankuppam.

The "second Eve turned the curse of humanity into a blessing by saying ‘Yes’ to the Will of God,” he explained. “It is with this confidence and belief, we come pleading to her to intercede for us”.

“It is in this regard that Pope Francis also keeps on insisting that all of us pray to the Queen of Peace for peace in the world, especially in war-torn Ukraine and Russia.”

At the same time, “we are called to pray for peace amidst us – in our families, in our villages, in our Archdiocese and in our country – as we ourselves are divided”.

Yet “Just as our Lady Periyanayagi is the epitome of peace, prayer, love, obedience, and unity, we are also called to imitate her in our day-to-day lives. [. . .] For that is what God desires of us.”--Asia News

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