Curtains down on feast of Attur church

Destitutes throng church compound for food, alms

The five-day annual feast of St Lawrence Basilica ended with distribution of alms and food packets to the destitute at the Basilica. Around Rs 10.32 lakh was given in charity to hundreds of destitute citizens who gathered at the Basilica. The distribution of alms and food packets to the destitute is considered as the final act of the annual feast of St Lawrence Basilica.

Prior to this practice, the destitute and beggars used to have a free run during the annual feast at Attur due to which most of the pilgrims had to face inconvenience and harassment from the persistent entreaty of these people for alms. Later, in line with the government policy of discouraging begging in public places and to avoid inconvenience to the pilgrims, the erstwhile Shrine Committee – with the help of the police – decided to stop begging during the annual feast. Instead, the pilgrims were asked to deposit their alms meant for the destitute in separate boxes kept for the purpose. The alms collected in these boxes were distributed to the destitute after the end of the annual feast along with packets of cooked food. During the festival this year, four boxes were kept within the premises.

On the last day of the feast, the destitute who had been camping outside the church began entering the compound from early morning and occupied the space under the pandal and shamiyana. They began to gather in groups or individually, women with children in tow and bags and baggage on their heads. Some were physically challenged while others were elderly and infirm. A number of saffron clad and bearded men could be seen in groups. There were also young children, nomadic tribals and even able bodied young men and women who had come to receive the alms and food packets that would be doled out at the prescribed time. By 11.30 am, the police herded the destitute under the pandal and asked them to sit in lines, following which the packed food (vegetable pulav) and alms were brought near the main entrance of the church compound. There was a mad rush of the people when asked to queue up to receive the food and alms. However, the police and the volunteers managed to maintain discipline and order.

The alms were distributed by John D’Silva, vice president of the Parish Pastoral Council of Attur Parish. According to the disability and condition of the person, the destitute were classified into three categories while distributing the alms and were given the alms packets with predetermined amounts. The children were given only food packets but refused alms packets as a matter of policy in order to discourage begging among children. Around 2,700 food packets were given to the destitute on the occasion.

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