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KARACHI: Members of the two largest minority communities of Pakistan don’t have much in common in terms of religious beliefs and customs. Or so it seems. For nine days of the year, however, the two communities come together to celebrate the ‘Lady of good health Velankanni’, sharing the common belief that these prayers for better health for their families will be answered. Dressed in yellow and orange outfits, the devotees stood in a queue in the prayer hall of St Anthony’s church at McNeil road on Saturday to listen to the holy rites and flag hoisting ceremony. “Orange is the colour of naivety of Mary,” said a girl standing outside the church. She was selling yellow and orange ribbons to the believers from both the Hindu and Christian faiths. Our Lady of Good Health, also known as Our Lady of Velankanni, is celebrated by Catholics, who believe that the blessed Mary appeared in Velankanni town, Tamil Nadu, India, in front of a young boy, explained a devotee at the church, Marshal Fernandes. “There are many stories behind this act of faith. Most believe that Mary’s apparition, carrying Jesus, appeared in front of a young boy who was delivering milk to the neighborhood,” explained Fernandes. Citing the reason why Hindus and Christians celebrate the occasion together, he said that because Mary appeared in India and is believed to be there, Hindus also have strong belief in it. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health still stands at the site in India where she appeared and the church is thronged by pilgrims from all over India. The start of the festival on August 29 is marked by a walk with the flag and a flag-hoisting ceremony. Prayers are held at the churches for the rest of the week. The festival ends on September 8 with the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. The prayers of the holy rosary are said in Tamil, Urdu, English and Konkani (a language spoken in Goa) at St Anthony’s church, said Fernandes.

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1 Enakshi Ganguly = ""It is an indisputable fact that God has always been eager to intervene in human history, especially during turbulent times, in a motherly way and so He comes to us through Mary. Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus, she is the Mother of all us, and it is the distinctive mark of a mother to be solicitous for the wellbeing of her children. Even in her glory in heaven, she is still profoundly concerned about the welfare of her children, and that is why she leaves her eternal throne to come down to man to alert him to the dangers to which he is rushing headlong."Source: http://www.vailankannishrine.org/miracle.php"
2 Enakshi Ganguly = "Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/pune/report-catholics-to-observe-vailankanni-novena-from-thursday-1881246This was the exact picture that was hung up in my wall when I roomed at an East Indian convent last summer. I could not tell who this woman was, as I had never seen her as one of the saints. How beautiful that then I was ignorant, and now I know something more. "