Catholics to file petition to free 500-yr-old Mumbai church

 

The church, in a dilapidated condition because of limited access and neglect, is opened every second Sunday of May.

 

Mumbai:

Catholics in Mumbai’s Andheri area say they want to free a 500-year-old church, popularly known as the SEEPZ church, from the territory of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), which allows access to it just once a year.

The church, in a dilapidated condition because of limited access and neglect, is opened every second Sunday of May. This Sunday, over 2,000 people visited it and offered their prayers.

Meanwhile, members of the St John the Baptist Church Save Committee (SJBCSC), the Bombay East Indian Association and the Marol Citizens Forum decided to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to save the structure.
“Several influential people have managed to get their plots excluded from the MIDC area. The church however continues to remain under their ownership,” said Nicholas Almeida, president of the St John the Baptist Church Save Committee (SJBCSC).

Portuguese missioners in 1579 built the church, which is a heritage structure now. After a devastating plague, it was abandoned it in 1840 and a new church was built at Marol. Some of its statues, the baptismal font, the altars and a few pillars were also moved to the Marol church. However, local Christians prayed in the church till 1970, when the MIDC took over, restricting access to it. Following protests, the state government allowed entry to the church once a year.

Though it is severely damaged, a major portion of the church is still standing tall. There is a 4-ft-long statue called ‘Our Lady of Amparo’ at the entrance. The church has a beautiful view of a lake. The community is, however, paranoid about the increasing encroachment within the premises.

“Every year when we come back, we see some area of the church encroached. It is the first church of the city that once had 16 parishes under it. There is no reason why such an important heritage site cannot be preserved,” said Almeida.

Source: mumbaimirror

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