Thousands of pilgrims to the 'Lourdes of the East' pray for life, against euthanasia

Nagapattinam, India - Healing the wounds provoked by anti-Christian violence in Orissa, and by the war in Sri Lanka; reiterating that "every form of human life" is worthy of being lived, even in the case of people stricken by disability; combating the "diabolical" logic of euthanasia and death; recovering the profound value of physical and spiritual "suffering," because in every suffering is concealed the message of salvation that comes from God.

These are the special intentions of the pilgrims participating in the Eucharistic procession and Mass planned for the basilica of Our Lady of Health in Velankanni, in Tamil Nadu. The World Day of the Sick is celebrated on February 11; the basilica of Our Lady of Health, called the "Lourdes of the East," is the pilgrimage destination of thousands of faithful from every social class and religion. "Already in these days leading up Feb 11th," Fr. Xavier, rector of the basilica, tells AsiaNews, "tens of thousands come to pray at the feet of the Blessed Mother. This shrine has brought solace to thousands - those afflicted by different ailments of mind, body and spirit. It is very moving to people of all different faiths, kneeling and praying with such devotion and trust, that at the basilica they will receive comfort.

"The untold suffering of the people in the Kandhamal district of Orissa have evoked feelings of great compassion. In fact, the pilgrims collected one hundred thousand rupees (a little more than 1500 euros), which we sent to Sr Nirmala, Joshi Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, as relief for the Kandhamal people."

The shrine, situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, in Tamil Nadu, dates back to the 17th century, and underwent significant restoration work after the tsunami in December of 2004. In spite of the tragedy - official estimates say there were 3,000 victims among the pilgrims - the basilica is the destination for a growing number of people each year, so much so that every year about 20 million faithful from India and Southeast Asia go there on pilgrimage. Many of them are children, some in wheelchairs, who "touch the hearts of all" because of their sufferings. "In some cases, there are miraculous cures, but always there is a change of heart, an acceptance of the will of God and a serenity and peace which the Blessed Mother imparts."

On the eve of the "World Day of the Sick," the religious emphasizes that "every human life is precious," and it is necessary to combat the "culture of death" that governments and secularized societies seek to promote: "We are blessed that in India, the family is to a large extent considered sacred," Fr. Xavier explains, "and the trends in the secular global society do not much influence people in Indian society."

However, he is issuing a warning against those who promote the spread of euthanasia and preventive abortion in the country: "Of course, there are many who are deceived into believing that they are doing a service by ‘putting an end to the suffering of the patient’ or preventing a ‘useless life’ from coming into the world. But this is absolutely false and evil. Every human life is precious."