THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: The Two Popes
Over the last sixty years, the magnificent yet humble Bombay Seminary has opened its doors and hearts to several visitors, guests, seminars, and programs. This ‘City on a green Hill’ has been an object of great curiosity and interest to all, serving as one of the premier institutions of the Archdiocese of Bombay. Among its visitors have been several Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Seminary Professors, Rectors, and the lay folk from within the Archdiocese, India, and abroad.
But who can ever forget the enviable call of the two Popes – now Saints? – The building resounded with happiness, the spirit of which echoes to date. Through this article let’s hearken to this thrilling story of the storeys of the Bombay Seminary.
The Visit of St. Pope Paul VI – December 5, 1964
St. Paul VI, the ‘Pilgrim Pope’, made history when he visited Bombay, India to participate in the 38th International Eucharistic Congress from 2nd to 5th December 1964. He received during his stay people of all classes, creeds, and communities, the warmest, biggest, and most spontaneous demonstrations of public esteem and affection ever accorded to a distinguished visitor in India’s First City. On December 5, the last day of his visit, the Pope was scheduled to address a gathering of priests at the Seminary before his departure for Rome. The Souvenir of the event records the incident as follows:
‘The open white convertible raced along arriving fifteen minutes late i.e. at 10:20 am. That meant a shortening of the original forty-minute stay at the Seminary, to a mere twenty-five. All were obsessed with the thought that they had to leave Goregaon not later than 10:45 am…From eight o’clock in the morning, priest and bishops had streamed in for this was to be the session of the Holy Father, with his priests, in India. The Seminary was a natural venue. A special cameraman had been commissioned with his panoramic camera for the occasion.’
The Holy Father was seen ascending the Seminary’s main steps. Due to an organizational foul-up, the Pope never got to address the eager and expectant gathering on the lawn. He visited the Seminary Chapel and admired its stained glass windows as also the remarkable mosaic on the Last Supper in the Sanctuary. Then the Pope was led into Pope John XXIII Hall where a small group of priests and seminarians had gathered. The Holy Father addressed this surprised group first in English from a prepared text, and then extemporaneously in Italian.
‘Most dearly beloved sons…We greet you with special affection. We salute you as associates in our ministry, “cooperatores ordinis nostri”. Like St. Paul writing to Timothy We have longed to see you that We might be filled with joy; and We remember you without ceasing in our prayers night and day…As far as the world is concerned, remember that you are lights set high on candlesticks so that your light may shine before men and they may see your good works.’
After these warm words of encouragement, the Holy Father announced a donation of Rs 25,000 to the Seminary and also presented a chalice and a two-volume work on Canon Law. The Seminarians too offered gifts to the Holy Father which he graciously accepted. The Congress Choir was in attendance as well – together they sang, ‘Tu es Petrus’, ‘Azaadi’ and ‘Vande, Vande’. Soon the Holy Father was whisked away to the Airport while the assembly on the lawn was left high and dry sans- papal address and sans papal photograph!
The Visit of St. Pope John Paul II – February 9 – 10, 1986
February 1 to 10, 1986 was a memorable period for the Catholic Church in India for those were the days of the pastoral visit of St. Pope John Paul II. During his ten-day stay, the Holy Father visited 14 different places all over the country. At every venue, the Pope resided in the Archbishop/Bishop Houses. It was only in Bombay that the Holy Father lodged at the Seminary. St. Pius X College was elated to have this distinguished Visitor spend one night and portions of two days on its premises.
On Day One, post a busy schedule around the city and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at Shivaji Park, Dadar – the Pope was driven directly to the Goregaon Seminary. Here he dined with the Bishops of the Western Region in the Father’s Refectory after which he retired for the night. At 8 am, on the second day, the Pope left the Seminary for Pune and returned at 1:30 pm for lunch and rest. However straying from the schedule, the Pope lunched in the Seminary Refectory in the company of the overjoyed Seminary Staff and other guests.
Reminiscing these warm and cordial moments, Simon Cardinal Pimenta writes in his memoirs, ‘The last meal of his ten-day pilgrimage, was the lunch at the Seminary. For this meal, we invited those who were helping us in the Seminary to organize Papal programs. There was no distance between him and them. He was just one of the diners. A true family atmosphere prevailed…The Vatican shorn of its pomp, solemnity had come to the Goregaon Seminary that afternoon. ’
Post lunch, Archbishop Pimenta addressed the gathering and the Pope replied to the address. At around 3:15 pm the Holy Father met with and spoke to a gathering of religious men and women on the Seminary lawn. After an hour, the Pope left for the Youth Rally at Shivaji Park after which he proceeded to the Airport where he emplaned for Rome at around 7:30 pm.
Before leaving the Bombay Seminary, in joyful jest the Holy Father exclaimed:
‘I assure you at the end of this visit, that you were for me a very deep experience. What I say is only a little part of what I should say and in the end…it is better that I go…for I suppose that you, brothers and sisters, are already tired of the Pope!’
Undoubtedly, you would agree, our affection for these Saintly Popes who pilgrimaged our land and captured our hearts is tireless and timeless! Viva il Papas!
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© – Archdiocesan Heritage Museum