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Popular Marian shrine opens new church

Updated: February 15, 2010 08:56 AM GMT
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The new church building in Chittagong diocese
The new church building in Chittagong diocese
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CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh (UCAN) -- A new church building has been consecrated at a popular Marian shrine in southeastern Chittagong diocese. The ceremony took place during an annual pilgrimage last week [Feb. 11-12] to the shrine, one of the oldest settlements of Catholics in Bangladesh. Holy Cross Bishop Patrick D’ Rozario of Chittagong along with his auxiliary Holy Cross Bishop Lawrence Subrato Howlader inaugurated the church at Diang Marian shrine, about 16 kilometers away from the port city. The new church is the second in the history of Diang Catholic settlement, one of the oldest in the country. Pilgrims attribute miracles to the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima and founded by Canadian Holy Cross Brother Flabian Laplante in 1976. Mabel Quiah, 70, a Catholic from Chittagong, told UCA News that the Blessed Mother and Brother Laplante had interceded to help her overcome cancer. “Medical reports revealed that I had tumor in my throat when I had my pathological test in Chittagong Medical College Hospital,” Quiah said. “I started praying to Mother Mary of Diang and Brother Laplante. I was eating soil from the Brother’s grave regularly and feeling gradually better.” When she had further tests the tumor was gone, she said. “I am completely fine now,” she added. The first Church in the Diang shrine complex was established by Bengal Portuguese Jesuit Father Francesco Fernandez in 1600 which was later destroyed by Arakan (in present-day Myanmar) rebels in 1607. According to Diang Pilgrimage Coordinator Holy Cross Brother Sylvester Mridha, Portuguese Catholics came here in 1535. Father Fernandez was jailed in 1602, blinded and was among 600 killed by the Arakan rebels. “Father Fernandez was both the first missioner to Bengal and the first martyr as well,” he pointed out. About 6,000 Catholics and some non-Catholics including two bishops, 16 priests and many nuns from all over Bangladesh attended the two-day pilgrimage. During last year’s pilgrimage Bishop D’ Rozario declared Brother Laplante as “Servant of God,” the first step to be proclaimed a saint. The prelate also elevated the Diang sub-parish to fuller parish status and announced the new Marian Church at the same time. BA08827.1589 February 15, 2010 44 EM-lines (351 words) Church starts canonization process for Canadian missioner Marian shrine draws people to annual pilgrimage

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