Apostolic Nuncio His Excellency Leopoldo Girelli visits the Diocese of Vasai
The Diocese of Vasai was honoured to host His Excellency Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Nuncio to India and Nepal. On 12 February 2022, the Apostolic Nuncio was warmly welcomed to Vasai by His Grace Archbishop Felix Machado. The Nuncio was accompanied by Fr Stephen Fernandes. During his two-day visit, Archbishop Girelli visited different churches and institutions that cater to the spiritual and physical health of the faithful. Archbishop Felix Machado personally elucidated the significance of each of these places that are a witness to the faith of the people and a testimony to the yeoman service rendered to the people of Vasai. On 12 February, Archbishop Girelli visited St Elizabeth’s Convent School, Remedy where His Excellency interacted with Adivasi girls and special children and witnessed the selfless work of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters. Post-lunch Archbishop Girelli visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies. The Apostolic Nuncio admired the architectural splendour of this church built in 1577 and spent some time in personal prayer.
The next stop was at Jeevan Darshan Kendra, the Diocesan Pastoral Centre at Girij. Archbishop Girelli interacted with the priests and got a firsthand glimpse of the work done at the Pastoral Centre. The offices of the two official magazines Suvarata and Shantidoot function from this Centre. Yuvadarshan the Diocesan Youth Body also has its office in the premises. Many programmes that address the mental and spiritual needs of the faithful are hosted at Jeevan Darshan Kendra. Then the Nuncio Visited ‘Umed” Diocesan Centre for the Differently Abled. His Excellency received a warm welcome at the Centre. He was very happy to meet these special people who are catered by the Diocese. The Nuncio prayed for them and blessed them all. The Apostolic Nuncio then visited Holy Spirit Church Nandakhal where His Excellency met members of the Parish Pastoral Council, Women’s Sodality, Youth Group, Senior Citizens Group, Altar Servers Group, Sisters and Priests and witnessed the dedicated work put in by the faithful. At 6.30 p.m. Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli assisted at the Holy Mass celebrated by Archbishop Felix Machado in Marathi from the Kneeler at Holy Spirit Church, Nandakhal. After the Post communion Prayer, His Excellency in brief delivered his message.
Day Two of the visit of the Apostolic Nuncio began with a visit to Our Lady of Grace Convent Papdy where His Excellency was accorded a warm welcome by the Carmelite Sisters and the staff of the educational institutions in the complex. Archbishop Girelli then had an informal meeting with the sisters. The Carmelite Sisters, whose presence in Vasai dates back to the 1940s, were among the first Religious to start pastoral work in Vasai and have played a vital role in the field of women education and teacher training. At 10 am Archbishop Girelli and Archbishop Felix Machado concelebrated Holy Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace, Papdy. During the homily, Archbishop Girelli applauded the notable contribution of the church in Vasai and appreciated the efforts made towards fostering interreligious harmony and ecumenism. His Excellency mentioned the laudable work done by the various educational and socialorganisations in the Diocese. Referring to the scripture readings of the day, Archbishop Girelli invited the faithful to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith and love by following the beatitudes which urge us to follow Jesus each day. He also extended the blessings of Pope Francis on the people and thanked them for their devotion and prayers for the Holy Father. Thanking Archbishop Machado for inviting him to Vasai, Archbishop Girelli said that the Catholic community was a vibrant community. He asked the people to continue to be good Catholics and also good citizens.
The Apostolic Nuncio then visited Cardinal Gracias Memorial Hospital, Bangli, Sandor and interacted with the members of the Managing Committee. The Hospital, founded due to the dreams and dedication of Msgr. Philip Tavares and Fr Bernard Bhandari in 1983, caters to the medical needs of people in and around Vasai and rendered selfless service to all people irrespective of their religions caste or creed. What began as a 20-bed hospital is now a full-fledged hospital (147 Beds) offering high quality health and medical services. The Apostolic Nuncio appreciated the efforts of the hospital. Next the Nuncio visited Maria Rafols’ Shantivan, Home for HIV infected Children and Stella Cancer Center at Merces. This centre is managed by the Sisters of Charity of St Anne. Archbishop Girelli interacted with the sisters and the residents of the Home.
There after the Apostolic Nuncio visited Our Lady of Mercies Church, Merces. The 16th century church stands as a witness to the strong faith of the Diocese. This was followed by a visit to the Vasai Fort which can be rightly termed as the cradle of Christianity in Vasai. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans and Augustinians were actively involved in the evangelisation work around Vasai Fort. The vocation of India’s first saint, St Gonsalo Garcia was nurtured in these precincts. The seeds of faith sowed then have now blossomed into a huge tree that bears much fruit in the form of the Religious and laity who have helped to spread Gospel values through their work. Archbishop Girelli in his address to the people said that he was happy to visit the churches in the fort as these are witness to the work done by St Francis Xavier who visited this place in the 16th century. The local fisherfolk accorded the dignitaries a traditional welcome and broke out into an impromptu dance singing Koli folk songs and waving Vatican flags.
The final phase of the two-day visit then culminated at St Gonsalo Garcia College where Archbishop Girelli was oriented about the extensive service rendered in the field of Higher Education. It may be recalled that the foundation stone of the college building was blessed by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Vasai in 1986. The college has catered to the educational needs of students for over three decades and is committed to the integrated development of youth for individual and social transformation.
The Diocese of Vasai was created in 1998 after being carved out from the Archdiocese of Bombay. The Catholic faith in the region, however, can be traced to the 16th century. This deep-rooted faith is nurtured by the spiritual guidance of the Church, the visionary leadership ofArchbishop Felix Machado and the spontaneous support of the faithful. Today the diocese of Vasai has institutions of repute that cater to the physical, educational, emotional and spiritual needs of the people and thus making Vasai a witness of Christ’s saving love. The diocese was happy to host Archbishop Girelli and give His Excellency glimpses of the vibrant and verdant Diocese of Vasai. The Diocese deems it a privilege to receive the blessings of the Nuncio which will help to reach out to the needy and put Gospel values into action.