Lahore (Fides Service) – At least half a million people are expected to join the annual pilgrimage to Mariambad in the archdiocese of Lahore 5-7 September. The pilgrimage, now a central annual event for the Catholic Church in Pakistan, is known as Ziarat, and it has become a tradition for all Pakistani Catholics who are deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The shrine was built in 1949 by a Belgian Franciscan missionary Father Frank who died a martyr.
Laity, families, clergy, religious men and women travel from all over the country to Mariambad in Punjab. Mariambad, which means City of Mary lies 95 km south of the regional capital Lahore. The pilgrims come on foot, on bicycles, with all sorts of public and private means of transport to shrine for the three day celebration, to pray for the intercession of Mary to obtain special graces from God.
“For us, as ordained ministers – Archbishop Lawrence Saldhana tells Fides – the pilgrimage is an opportunity to renew the offering of our life to the Lord and our commitment to serve the people. For all the faithful Ziarat is an occasion of intense prayer, interior cleansing and healing of body and soul. The pilgrims receive the sacraments of reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist and are renewed in faith and spirit and this has also a good effect on their daily life.”
This year the Catholic community in Pakistan will live this important annual event at a time of tension with certain sectors of the Muslim community. However, Muslim believers are also expected to attend the pilgrimage as usual and the local clergy say this could help heal the rift and re-establish friendly relations between Muslims and Christians in Pakistan. PA (Fides Service 3/9/2003 EM lines 26 Words: 279)