worship at Fatima
The Portugal News 5/22/04
Arriving in Fátima the pilgrims made their way to the Chapel of the
Apparitions, where from the altar a Hindu priest led prayer sessions. A
commentary on the service was given by the TV reporter who explained: "This
is an unprecedented unique moment in the history of the shrine. The Hindu
priest, or Sha Tri, prays on the altar the Shaniti Pa, the prayer for
peace." The Hindus can be seen removing their shoes before approaching the
altar rail of the chapel as the priest chants prayers from the altar's
During the newscast the Rector of the shrine Father Luciano Guerra says:
"These meetings give us the opportunity to remind ourselves that we live in
After worshipping their gods and praying in the chapel the Hindus are shown
being escorted to an exhibition hall where a model of the controversial new
basilica currently being constructed is on display. In a setting described
as ambassadorial by the commentator, each Hindu is personally greeted by the
Bishop of Leiria - Fátima, who bows to the Hindu priest repeating his
gesture of greeting. The Hindu priest is then seen clothing the Rector of
the Fátima Shrine and the bishop with a Hindu priestly shawl. "On the
shoulders of the highest representatives of the Church in Fátima, the Hindu
priest places a shawl with the inscriptions of the Bagavad Gita, one of the
sacred books of Hinduism," the reporter tells his viewers.
The newscast finishes with scenes of the Hindu priest lighting a candle at
the shrine while his followers dance outside the Chapel of the Apparitions
chanting praises to their gods. The TV commentator concludes by saying: "In
1982, a Guru, a high priest of Hinduism, came from Bombay to Fátima . . . .
He signed the book of honour right after Pope John Paul II and on the same
page as Mother Teresa of Calcutta."
In other reactions to the Hindu ritual, a long-standing member of the
Leira-Fátima diocese was less accepting of the opening of the sanctuary to
other cults and religions, telling the Jornal de Leiria: "I understand the
opening of the site to other religions. But I disagree with the practise of
non-Catholic rituals at the sanctuary's holiest site".
Bishop of the Diocese, D. Serafim Ferreira e Silva, has a different opinion.
He told the regional newspaper: "We don't want to be fundamentalist, but
sincere and honest".