Visiting holy places, heritage sites, touring historical towns and cities, visiting hill stations, forests, beautiful beaches and for that matter any vacation makes us very happy. Readers of my blog know this for sure!
Here is another beautiful, holy and peaceful place we have visited recently…The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pondicherry. It is not very ancient but over a century old, it is very popular where countless people have prayed and continue to pray and feel blessed and happy. And we too are happy to have visited the Basilica.
The blessing of this Church and the first mass was held at the western wing of the present Church by Mgr. Gandy on 17th December 1907 and the new parish surrounding this church has been established on 27th January 1908. It is situated on the south boulevard of Pondicherry. It is an oriental specimen of Gothic architecture. It contains rare stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ and Saints of the Catholic Church. In recent years it has become one of the famous pilgrimage spots for Christians.
The year 2008-2009 was celebrated as Centenary Year of founding of the parish. A special Postal Stamp and Postal Envelope were released to mark the Valedictory function of the Centenary celebrations.
At the end of the Centenary celebrations in June 2009, a request was placed through Telesphore Toppo, President of CBCI, to the Holy See for the elevation of this Church to a Basilica. The Holy See granted the status of Minor Basilica to the Church, with a papal brief dated Friday, 24th June 2011. This arrived on Friday 29th July 2011 at Archbishop’s house. This was officially announced by Mgr. Antony Anandarayar, Archbishop of Pondicherry and Cuddalore on 29th July 2011. The Papal Nuncio to India, Salvatore Pennacchio (Titular Archbishop of Montemarano) visited the Basilica on 22nd September 2011 and officially declared the Church as a Basilica in the name of the Holy See. At present the Basilica is headed by Rector Rev.Fr. S. Maria Joseph.
This over 100 year old historical Church is 50 m long, 48 m wide and 18 m high built in Gothic style. 24 main columns hold the structure. The biblical verse from 2 Chronicles 7:16 is written above the entrance door in Latin "sanctificavi locum istum, ut sit nomen meum ibi" which means "I have consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there forever". Inside the church there are glass pictures of 28 Saints who were related to the devotion of Sacred Heart of Jesus.
This 100-year-old Church has been led by twenty parish priests. The Grotto for Our Lady of Lourdes, Parish Hall, Adoration chapel and the new parish community hall were some of the developments of this church since the 1960s. After the arrival of parish priest Thomas in 2005 the Church was fully renovated inside and out.
Statues of the four evangelists were erected, beneath which there are four lamp posts describing their lives and the inviting Jesus and the twelve apostles on the front facade. The Grotto for Sacred Heart of Jesus facing the City Railway Station were added and the Church illuminated inside and out with chandeliers, focus and flood lights.
This is a must visit place in Pondicherry, And for that matter Pondicherry itself is a must visit place in our country as it has so much to offer to a visitor.