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John Paul II's 1st Apostolic Pilgrimage to India

1st - 10th February 1986

Blessed Pope John Paul II was a pilgrim for the first time in 1986, on his 29th apostolic voyage.

After being welcomed at Delhi airport, Pope John Paul II went and prayed at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart before visiting the funerary monument of Raj Ghat dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and praying for peace. Mass was celebrated at the Indira Gandhi stadium of Delhi and followed by a meeting with the bishops back in the Cathedral.

Day 2, February 2, began with Mass with the Bishops of the Provinces of Delhi and Agra, followed by the recitation of the Angelus. In the afternoon, JPII met with  representatives of the different religious and cultural traditions.

On Day 3, JPII celebrated Mass for the workers at Ranchi before visiting Nirmal Hriday in Calcutta and meeting with Mother Theresa. He spoke to the Heads of the Non-Catholic Christian Communities in Calcutta & then to the representatives of other religions.

On February 4 Blessed John Paul II celebrated Mass at the golf course of Shillong in Calcutta and for the Catholics of West Bengala.

Day 5 was spent in Madras, at a meeting with the exponents of Non-Christian religions and with a visit to the Church of Mount Saint Thomas. Mass was celebrated in honour of St John de Britto ahead of a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Thomas Apostle.

On Day 6 Blessed John Paul II celebrated Mass at Campal Grounds in Goa and the Liturgy of the Word at the Airport of Mangalore and a meeting with the clergy in the Cathedral of Bom Jesus of Velha, Goa.

On 7 February JPII attended a Prayer meeting in the suburb of Saint Thomas in Trichur before celebrating Mass for the faithful of the ecclesiastical districts of the Gran Cochin. This was followed by visits to the Syro-Malabar Church of Ernakulam and the Cathedral of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Verapoly, and a Meeting with the Catholics of the Malankarese Syrian-Orthodox Church in Cochin.

On 8 February saw the Beatification of Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavarra and Sr Alfonsa Muttathupandathu in Kottayam. JPII also met with the Catholics of the Malankarese  Syrian-Orthodox Church, visited the Cathedral of Kottayam and the Parish Church of Vijayapuram, Saint Joseph’s Cathedral and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Mary ahead of the Prayer Meeting at the Airport of Trivandrum.

Sunday 9 February began with a Prayer meeting at St Augustine High School in Vasai before the recitation of the Angelus at Mount Mary. Blessed John Paul II then visited Holy Name Cathedral in Bombay and celebrated Mass at Shivaji Park where he also made the Act of Entrustment of India to Mary.

The last day of John Paul II's pilgrimage started with Mass in the grounds of the Papal Seminary in Pune, then a Meeting with the Religious Men and Women at the Seminary of Goregoan and finally a Meeting with the Youth at Shivaji Park in Bombay.

Pope Saint John Paul II's Address at the Welcome Ceremony
Airport of Delhi - Saturday, 1st February 1986 - in English & Italian

"Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, Distinguished Officials of the Government of India, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To all of you: "Namaskar"!

1. It gives me great joy to be in India. I thank you for your words of welcome, Mr President, and in particular I thank you for the invitation to come to this great nation, so ancient and yet so young. I wish also to express my gratitude for your presence, Mr Prime Minister. I am honoured that you join the President in this official ceremony of welcome.

I deeply appreciate everything that has been done to prepare for this visit. I am grateful for the generous efforts on the part of so many which will make it possible for me to travel to different parts of this vast and varied Republic of India, to meet as many of the beloved Indian people as possible, and to come to a deeper understanding of the rich cultures of your country. I pray that my visit will serve and support the good of your nation and the well-being of all the Indian people.

2. Your invitation, Mr President, and this meeting upon my arrival in Delhi, stand in faithful continuity with the good official relations which have existed for many years between India and the Holy See. Other particularly significant moments of this history have been the visit of your first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to Pope Pius XII in 1955; the visit of Pope Paul VI to Bombay in 1964, on which occasion he met your highest civil authorities; and the visit of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the Vatican less than five years ago.

These good relations, to which this visit gives further expression, reflect at the same time the overall cordial relationship which exists between Church and State in India. I am very pleased to know of the esteem which the Catholic Church in your country enjoys, and I am well aware of the important contribution which she seeks to make through her dedicated involvement in various fields of human advancement, such as education, health care and development. Since the beginning of Christianity the Church has been present in India. Thus for nearly 2000 years she has formed an integral part of the development and life of your people. And I can assure you that the Church is always desirous of offering her loyal and generous contribution to the unity and brotherhood of the nation, to the promotion of justice, love and peace, and to the authentic general progress of your country in the many aspects of her life.

3. My purpose in coming to India has both a religious and human dimension. I come to pay a pastoral visit to the Catholics of India, and I come in friendship with a deep desire to pay honour to all your people and to your different cultures. As I begin, I take this occasion to express my sincere interest in all the religions of India – an interest marked by genuine respect, by attention to what we have in common, by a desire to promote inter-religious dialogue and fruitful collaboration between people of different faiths.

In this regard, I note with admiration how the Indian constitution, through its official recognition of religious liberty, honours the dignity of each person in his or her most sacred dimension, and at the same time allows the promotion of genuine spiritual values, which are so fundamental for all social living.

4. It is with sentiments of fraternal love and respect for all the Indian people that I begin this visit. Through you, Mr President, I greet the men and women of every region, the children and their parents, the aged and the young people. I am interested in meeting as many of you as possible, eager to learn from you and from your experience of life.

At the same time, I am deeply interested in the various cultures of India: in the many ancient cultural expressions contained in your art and architecture, in your literature and customs; and in those of modern India which reflect a fine blending of the old and the new, and those which have resulted in part from the inevitable and often needed social changes and in response to the challenges of modern industry and technology. All of this is a sign of a society that is living and dynamic.

5. The many activities which characterise the internal and international life of India have for a long time attracted the deep interest of the world. These include your sustained effort to promote the practical recognition of the equality and identical human dignity of every person in society, your quest for social harmony and for unity in diversity, your various initiatives to further the social-economic development of your country, especially for the sake of those most in need, and your attempts to foster an atmosphere of trust and dialogue both within and beyond the borders of your land. It was in reference to your land and his that Tagore wrote:

"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habits;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake" .

These many aspects of modern India are all significantly linked to the cause of peace in the international community, particularly since India is the largest democracy in the world. As I said in my 1986 World Day of Peace message: "The right path to a world community in which justice and peace will reign without frontiers among all peoples and on all continents is the path of solidarity, dialogue and universal brotherhood".

I come to India as a servant of unity and peace. And I desire to listen and learn from the men and women of this noble nation. I look forward to deepening the admiration and friendship which I already have for the Indian people. You shall be in my prayers each day. May God bless you all!  Jai Hind!"

Blessed John Paul II's Prayer at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
Delhi, Saturday, 1st February 1986 - in English

Dear Archbishop Fernandes, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the solemn joy of this moment, as I begin my pastoral visit to India and as I consecrate the Archdiocese of Delhi to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let our first action be to praise and bless our God. Let us glorify him for his love for the world which is shown to us in the heart of his Son. In the human heart of the Son of Mary the eternal love of God came to abide; and through Christ’s human life, and especially through his death on the Cross, the tender mercy of God was revealed.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." This is the Good News of our Redemption. This is the saving message of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is the Gospel which I have come here today to proclaim to you.

During these days I wish also with you to show my respect and esteem – beyond the limits of the Church – to every person in India. In this too we are impelled by the love of Christ.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, Burning Fire of Love, have mercy on us and make our hearts like your own.

“Grazie per ciò che sei e per ciò che fai.”  

Lord Jesus Christ,
Redeemer of the human race,
to your most Sacred Heart
we turn with humility and trust,
with reverence and hope,
with a deep desire to give to you
glory and honour and praise.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Saviour of the world,
we thank you for all that you are
and all that you do for the little flock
and all the twelve million people
living in this Archdiocese of Delhi,
which includes those entrusted
with the stewardship of this nation.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the Living God,
we praise you for the love
that you have revealed
through your Sacred Heart,
which was pierced for us
and which has become the fountain
of our joy, the source of our eternal life.

Gathered together in your Name,
which is above all other names,
we consecrate ourselves to your most Sacred Heart,
in which dwells the fullness of truth and charity.

In consecrating themselves to you,
the faithful of the Archdiocese of Delhi
renew their desire to respond in love
to the rich outpouring of your merciful love.

Lord Jesus Christ,
King of love and Prince of peace,
reign in our hearts and in our homes.
Conquer all the powers of evil
and bring us to share in the victory of your Sacred Heart.
May all we say and do give glory
and praise to you and to the Father
and the Holy Spirit,
one God living
and reigning for ever and ever. Amen."

Act of Entrustment of India to Mary by John Paul II

"O Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God, Mother of the Church,
We turn to you in prayer, with confidence and hope; we offer to you the deepest thoughts of our hearts.

We come to you, Holy Mother of God, mindful of your Son’s last words to you as you stood at the foot of the Cross: "Woman, behold, your son!"

Woman, behold your son! Mary, behold your sons and daughters! Dearest Mother, behold your children here on earth, behold your sons and daughters here in India!

In imitation of Jesus who entrusted the beloved disciple John to your care, I entrust to you all the people dwelling in this great land. Be near them with your motherly protection. Open your arms to embrace all those who look to you and ask you to present their prayers to God.

O Mary, Virgin Most Pure, I entrust to your love and care all the youth of India, the children whose innocence expresses the goodness of their Creator and whose littleness reveals the greatness of their Maker. We pray for the young people who are searching for the truth and for direction and purpose in their lives. We ask you to guide the young men who are studying in the seminaries, and all those who are preparing to consecrate their lives to God through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

Loving Mother of our Saviour, I entrust to you all families, especially husbands and wives seeking to model their home on your home in Nazareth. Intercede for parents and their children, that their love may be strong and faithful like the love that fills your own Immaculate Heart.

Mary Most Holy, we entrust to you the family which is the Church in India, with its clergy and religious, its different rites and liturgical traditions, its two millennia of experience and its ever vigorous youth. As part of the Body of Christ on earth, the Church in India seeks to imitate your divine Son and to be for the people of this land his voice, his hands, his feet, his body given in sacrifice. I place before you her great work of spiritual renewal, her efforts to proclaim the Gospel of merciful love, her ecumenical initiatives, her desire to be a reconciling force within society. Pray for your sons and daughters of the Church, that they may be always faithful, always filled with joy and hope, always a people of charity proclaiming the Good News to the poor. In the love of your Son embrace all those who suffer: the old and the feeble, the sick and the lonely, all those who are discouraged and destitute.

Mary, Queen of Peace, your children long for peace. They hunger and thirst for justice. They desire to live in harmony despite all the violence and divisions which exist in the world. Your Son prayed to the Father "that they may all be one", and today we make his prayer our own. We count on your intercession before God’s throne of grace. Obtain for us the favour to live in perfect union with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters. And may all that we say and do give ever greater glory and praise to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

JPII - Park of Shivaji, Bombay, Sunday 9 February 1986 - in English, Italian & Spanish