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Thousands flock to St. Anthony’s shrine

Annual Bangladesh pilgrimage is attracting devotees from all religions

Devotees gather to touch and pray before St. Anthony of Padua's statue in Panjora in Nagari parish on Feb. 4 Devotees gather to touch and pray before St. Anthony of Padua's statue in Panjora in Nagari parish on Feb. 4
  • Sumon Corraya, Gazipur
  • Bangladesh
  • February 7, 2011
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Tens of thousands flocked to this year’s annual pilgrimage to St. Anthony of Padua’s shrine, in what is fast-becoming a universal celebration among devotees from all faiths in Bangladesh.

About 50,000 people, including three archbishops, two bishops, 54 priests, 100 nuns and 20 brothers made the pilgrimage on February 4 in Nagari parish in Gazipur district, about 45 kilometers east from Dhaka.

This annual devotion has been going on for just over 225 years. Traditionally, it is celebrated ahead of Lent, which begins on March 9 this year, rather than on June 13, St. Anthony’s feast day in the Church’s liturgical calendar.

Coadjutor Archbishop Holy Cross Patrick D’Rozario and Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka presided over two grand feast-day holy masses.

“We pray to Saint Anthony as our prayers are answered. The more we pray the more fruits we’ll receive. The people who have slackening faith can become stronger by attending the pilgrimage here,” Archbishop Costa told the gathering during his homily.

Many make the pilgrimage to give thanks to “miracles” attributed to the saint.

Local Hindu housewife Sheuli Rani Das, 26 came to thank the saint for her son’s speedy recovery from typhoid.

“My two-year-old son was seriously ill recently. I prayed to the saint for his recovery and my son soon got well,” she told ucanews.com.

“My four-year-old son was semi-paralyzed and couldn’t walk unaided. I’ve tried getting treatment for him at home and abroad but nothing worked until I started praying to Saint Anthony,” said Fariduddin, a Muslim.

Now my son is walking much better, he said, so I’ve come to offer a manot (thanksgiving gift), to the saint, he added.

Saint Anthony was born in Portugal in 1195. He was ordained a priest in 1220and joined the Franciscans the following year. Pope Gregory IX canonized him in 1232, less than a year after his death.

He is popularly revered as a finder of lost things as well as patron of the poor and travelers.
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