.- On Sept. 30, Cardinal George Alencherry unveiled and blessed a shrine featuring a statue of the Divine Mercy of Jesus, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
“The statue is 43-feet tall and it proclaims that the Lord is ever merciful to all those who seek him,” Bishop Anthony Chirayath of the Syro-Malabarese Diocese of Sagar told CNA Sept. 28.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. It is of the East Syrian rite, and is headed by Cardinal Alencherry, who is Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly. Nearly all 3.8 million Syro-Malabarese Catholics are in India, though there is an eparchy located in the U.S.
Some 20 bishops attended the blessing, as well as around 100 priests and religious. When he spoke to CNA, Bishop Chirayath said that “a presence of about 3,000 Catholic devotees of the Divine Mercy is expected, including pilgrims from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and Italy,” adding that “a great participation of staunch devotees, even of other faiths, is to be witnessed.”
Bishop Chirayat explained that the motivation behind erecting this monumental shrine was through his personal experience some years ago.
While on a visit to the Divine Mercy shrine in San Francisco on Oct. 5, 2007, Bishop Chirayath said he saw a shrine in a vision and heard an “interior voice” instructing him to “build a shrine” in Sagar dedicated to the Divine Mercy of Jesus.
“I was neither aware of, nor a devotee to, the Divine Mercy.”
The image of Divine Mercy, based on visions experienced by 20th century Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska, depicts Jesus touching his heart, from which red and white rays flow, offering the mercy of God to sinners.
The bishop said that locally, people refer to the Divine Mercy of Jesus as “Dayasagar,” or “Ocean of Mercy,” and that local non-Catholics call him “Prabhu,” or “Lord.”
The shrine is located in Khajuria, near Sagar. The statue weighs 1.5 tons and is placed at a height of 45 feet on a 100-foot concrete structure to protect it from violent storms and earthquakes. It is 16 feet wide, three feet depth, and three inches thick. The rays from the heart of Jesus are 21 feet long.
“The original idea was to install a statue of only eight feet,” Bishop Chirayath explained, “but later the vicar general and the curia suggested that we install a statue of 40 feet, but now increased to 43 feet.”
The statue was commissioned to a Catholic sculptor from Kerala, a state on the southern tip of India, named Poly.
The work was completed with contributions from devotees across India, and without making any appeals or undertaking fund-raising drives, the bishop said.
“People heard of this construction and voluntary contacted us, contributing small amounts.”
In addition, Fr. Anthony Gramlich, rector of the U.S. national shrine of the Divine Mercy, gave a painting of the devotion to the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Sagar. It was installed in the shrine at Khajuria in 2007, and the diocese was then consecrated to the Divine Mercy.
Since then, numerous miracles have been reported and recorded, particularly among non-Catholics. The shrine has become very popular, and Bishop Chirayath himself has reported being cured there of a malign tumor. He noted that the shrine is contributing to inter-religious dialogue in the area.
The shrine, which already has a perpetual adoration chapel as well as a relic of St. Faustina, will be expanded in the future.
Today, Oct. 1, Cardinal Alencherry also consecrated St. Theresa Cathedral for the Sagar diocese.
The Syro-Malabar Diocese of Sagar has over 60 priests and 100 religious, and serves some 7,000 Catholics, who are 0.1 percent of the population.