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Christmas 2015: Visual treat awaits visitors at the famous Bandel Church

Kolkata :A visual treat awaits visitors to the famous Bandel Church, founded in 1599 on the banks of the Hooghly river in West Bengal, this Christmas.

The church, the oldest in eastern India, is getting ready for the biggest Christmas celebration in 20 years with the setting up of ‘The Stations of The Cross’ that will depict Christ’s crucifixion.

Also on display will be the historic ‘Mast’ from which the Church and the town gets their names and a newly-renovated grand ‘doorway’ that leads to the Church’s hallowed precincts where millions from India and abroad come to pray each year.

Over one lakh visitors of all religious beliefs are expected to visit the church on Christmas Day and as many on New Year’s day, the church authorities said.

Visitors are thronging the church just to have a glimpse of the baby Jesus kept in the creatively made crib set which would be on display, Prior of the Bandel Church Fr T L Francis told PTI.

The much-awaited facelift of Bandel Church, originally planned to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the church in 1999, had to be stalled due to litigation over church ownership.

The church, declared a mini Basilica by Pope John Paul II, is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosario – Our Lady of the Rosary.

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta recently assigned Bandel Basilica Church as one of the designated churches to obtain blessings and graces connected with the Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis when he symbolically opened the “Holy Door” of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome to the pilgrims on December 8, 2015.

Fr Francis expressed satisfation at the completion of the facelift at the end the dispute.

He said that three major renovations have been implemented this year. First, the restoration and display of the historical ‘Mast’ which had fallen down in a Norwester in 2010.

The Portuguese ship’s mast was a votive offering to the church from the captain of the ship that was miraculously saved in a tempest in the Bay of Bengal.