Inauguration of Bali's first Marian shrine

Sanih Water, Bali's first Marian shrine, was inaugurated late last month after an eight-year wait, with more than 1500 Catholics from Denpasar parishes attended the first mass celebrated there by the Denpasar Bishop Banyamin Yosef Bria.

AsiaNews reports that local Hindu leaders were also among the congregation.

The grotto is situated in Yeh Sanih village 60 km north of Denpasar, which is governed by "desa pakraman", a system of rural leadership typical of Hinduism. During Mass, the residents sang songs typical of the area accompanied by a transitional Balinese orchestra, the "gamelan".

In his sermon, Bishop Bria called on the shrine management to "welcome all people who come seeking God's mercy". The village head Made Sukresna was present at the ceremony; he said the shrine "would not disrupt local people's lifestyle" and that villagers "know Catholicism is a recognized religion in Indonesia".

The head of another local village, Astra, added that "none of the people have complained about this place". Moreover, he said, the shrine contributed to the local economy and those managing the shrine "have established good relationships with all".

The three-hectare grounds which host the shrine belong to St. Joseph College Foundation, run by priests of the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord. The foundation bought the land in 1990 and turned it into a garden. Sukresna said the priests have always given flowers and fruit of the land for traditional Hindu religious festivals.

Astra recalled that when an economic crisis hit the country in 1997, the foundation decided to reduce its employees' working hours and wages rather than dismiss them; regular conditions were reinstated once the crisis passed. About proselytism, Astra said: "There is no proselytism here, by anyone".

Sukresna added that "all religions teach goodness and no Hindu feels threatened by the shrine". After Mass, Fr Willy Malim Batuah, president of the foundation, recounted the history of the place: the organisation bought the land in 1990 "to bring the Good News of happiness and peace" to the people, which "does not mean baptizing non-Catholics". The shrine was completed in 1997, but the official opening took place only today "because now we are finally clear about the response of the local people".

Bali's first Marian shrine inaugurated after 8 year wait (AsiaNews.it 5/11/05)

8 Nov 2005