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Cardinal Gracias starts Advent at Asia’s largest slum
Mumbai, 4 December 2013: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, head of the Indian Catholic Church, launched a campaign against hunger and disease to mark the four-week preparation for Christmas, with a pastoral visit to the poor in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum cluster.
Bombay archdiocese launched the Advent campaign in collaboration with Caritas India, the social action wing of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
The initiative aims to create greater awareness in society toward the poor who live in large urban centers, following the theme “Struggle for Survival – Bringing Hope to the Urban Poor,” reported asianews.it.
The cardinal, archbishop of Bombay and CBCI president, visited the slums of Mumbai on November 22, a week before the Advent season began.
Dharavi was created in 1880, under British colonialism, to house migrants coming to work in the city’s factories. It has a massive multi- religious and multi – ethnic population between 300,000 and 1 million. From a certain point of view, it depicts many negative aspects of India: open sewers, piles of garbage everywhere, dirt and crumbling shacks .
The cardinal said Pope Francis has dedicated his pontificate to economic justice, equality and peace. During his visits to poor communities, he praised the courage of the poor, urging society to receive them with love and compassion.
Dharavi is located within the parish of St. Anthony, and six chapels exist within a radius of about 300 meters. The cardinal visited the church as well as all the chapels on the day.
Two Christian communities in particular are part of the local church: Tamils (about 5,000 people) and ethnic koli (about 1,000).
The cardinal stopped to pray and to bless all the faithful he met on his journey. People said they felt “greatly touched by his presence and the unassuming way he walked down the narrow lanes and visited even the poorest of the poor.”