He was only the second world leader to be offered special communion
CHENNAI: Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi visited the sacred shrine atop the St. Thomas Mount, with wife Flavia Franzonio, on Sunday for special prayers.
The visit was memorable for more than one reason: Mr. Prodi was only the second world leader, after a Papal visit in 1986, to be offered special communion at the shrine, consecrated in the memory of St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Christ.
"I am touched by the warmth and fraternity received here. It is a signal of the brotherhood between the people of India and Italy," Mr. Prodi told reporters after participating in the Sunday mass. "The reason I came here was to pay my tribute to [this shrine] which is a symbol of faith in India."
Earlier, Mr. Prodi was given a traditional welcome with garlands and a kumbh by members of the parish, led by Chengelput Bishop A. Neethinathan, and parish priest John Bosco.
Mr. Prodi first visited the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel before attending the Holy Mass. He was also taken on a short tour of the hill shrine.
"We are honoured to have the Italian Prime Minister ... in this cradle of faith. We are happy that he is celebrating Eucharist with us," Mr. Bosco said during the Holy Mass, before presenting a memento and a shawl to Mr. Prodi.
"The Prime Minister's visit was a rare event. We hope the visit of such world leaders as him will help in attracting more worshippers to the shrine and draw attention to its antiquity," Mr. Bosco later told reporters.