No monument to mark Pope's visit

The memories of the papal visit is still afresh in the minds of the devotees who gathered in lakhs to have a glimpse of the Holy Father. While the organisers put the figure at more than five lakhs, the police present then say “it was a oceanic crowd” with not less than four lakh people, perhaps the first and last such gathering in this part of the region.

People cutting across religion, caste and creed thronged the venue, near the Bajpe airport, literally from the nook and corner of the State and outside the State, as the Pope’s schedule included only Mangalore and nowhere else in Karnataka.

In fact, the Mangaloreans were lucky as the Pope was scheduled to visit Bangalore that year. As the atmosphere in Bangalore was not conducive, the Pope decided to visit Mangalore, also known as the “Rome of the East.”

Businessman V U Seemon, who chauffeured the Pope from the airport to the venue in an open jeep, said it was the most memorable occasion of his life. While thanking the former Bishop of Mangalore Diocese Rt Rev Dr Basil Vas for giving an opportunity to chauffeur the Holy Father, he recalled how he dressed (in white safari and traditional turban) though the organisers wanted him to wear a suit. Showing a rostrum preserved at his home, he said that it was the most precious thing in his possession, as it was used by the Pope on the podium when he addressed the oceanic crowd. “When the organisers wanted a rostrum to be used by the Pope, none could find one without cover. There was a need for a sleek rostrum without cover, so that Pope’s body is not covered with it. Hence, Seemon decided to fabricate a special rostrum and he has preserved it in his home with Holy Bible on it.

Stating that he was on ‘Cloud 9’ on that day, he said he could never forget the devine smile on the face of the Pope. “I can’t explain the devine vibration I had when I was near the Pope,” he says and adds: “You have to experience it to know it.”

Meanwhile, Alwyn Noronha, a teacher at St Joseph PU College in Bajpe, said that he felt like he is seeing God. He was studying in 10th standard when the Pope visited Bajpe. He said that he along with his friend had reached the venue before 10 am and waiting for the papal visit, scheduled at 2.30 pm.

H R Kasturirangan, the then Superintendent of Police (who retired as IGP in 2000) said that despite the oceanic crowd, there was discipline. He said that he was presented a rosary by a priest on the day at the airport.

Gracian Aroza Pai, now aged 70, was the then vice president of Bajpe parish and also the president of St Vincent Paul Society.

He was given the task to clearing the partition walls (after holding discussion with the residents) so that about 42 acres of land was available for the programme.“The work on finalising the venue began about 6 months before the Pope’s visit. The diocese was looking for about 42 acres of land so that approximately 5 lakh people could be accommodated at one place. We could not get that much land anywhere except Bajpe, near the airport,” he goes down memorylane and adds that he was lucky to be blessed by the Pope when he along with the then parish priest J J Saldanha among others received the Pope soon after he landed from a special plane in the airport.

At the same time, he regretted that the diocese did not take steps to purchase the land visited by Pope or construct a memorial at the site. “At a time when even a small event is marked by memorials, its unfortunate that no steps have been taken to mark the historic papal visit,” he regrets.
 
Pope Layout

Interestingly, popular builder Manmohan Malli brought about 10 acres of land and named it as “Pope Layout.”

Speaking to City Herald, he said that he donated 7 cents of land to the church after the church representatives approached him. “I purchased the land from the owners after clearing the long pending litigation,” he said and added that he decided to purchase the land as it is very good for converting a layout. “Besides, there is an attachment for many as it is considered as holy land,” he said.

No memorial

A priest on condition of anonymity said that if the Diocese had purchased the land and built a memorial to mark the historic event, today the place would have been a popular pilgrimage centre. Now, with the land sold to builders, its too late, he regrets.

With the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he will beatify Pope John Paul II on May 1, 2011, at St Peter’s Square in Rome, the Catholic community is thrilled, while many regret the lack of foresight by the diocese to develop or construct a memorial to mark the historic visit.

Celebrations on Feb 6

As the papal visit site comes under the jurisdiction of Pezar varado, all the 10 parishes in the varado (Bajpe, Adyapady, Gurpur-Kaikamba, Permude, Thokur, Katipalla, Pezar, Ferar, Mukka and Surathkal) would gather at the same site and offer a mass at 8.30 am, informed Bajpe Parish Priest Fr Mathias Pereira.

Prior to it, three processions will be taken out simultaneously from Sunkadakatte temple, Holy Family School and Muranagar Junction, said Bajpe Assistant Parish Priest Fr Sunil D’Souza.

Meanwhile, Mangalore Diocesan Bishop Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza said that the diocese will erect a bust of Pope John Paul II at the podium in Bajpe to mark the silver jubilee of papal visit. Incidentally, the Mangalore diocese is also celebrating the 125 years of formation of Mangalore diocese on the same day.


 

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