Ambarawa (AsiaNews) - At least 30 thousand people, from hundreds of parishes, gathered Sunday to "gua Maria" (the grotto of Mary) in Ambarawa for the blessing of the world’s tallest statue of Our Lady. The unveiling marked the 61st anniversary of the Marian shrine, the second most important of Central Java. Seven bishops presided over the Mass, along with 15 priests of the Archdiocese of Semarang. At the end of the liturgy, Archbishop Johannes Pujasumarta, using a crane, sprinkled holy water the statue of Our Lady of the Assumption, which is 42 meters high.
Three local religious who are sculptors - Kuncoro (45), Adi Nugroho (40) and Agung Hartanto (38) - designed the monument, which is located near the sanctuary. The trio is famous for having created dozens of statues with a religious theme throughout the country.
Veronica Angkatirta, a Catholic woman from Jakarta, told AsiaNews: "It was a spectacular view thousands of Catholics from all over Java and other islands, who came here to celebrate their faith in Jesus through Mary" . The pilgrims were much more than those predicted by the organizers. The distribution of the sacraments was possible only for 20 thousand people and the food packages were prepared 6 thousand.
A week before the celebration, the Archbishop of Semarang and Fr. Aloysius Budi Purnomo, head of the interfaith archdiocese, organized an interfaith meeting with authorities at "gua Maria". The conference, also supported by all political parties of the government of Ambarawa, included some Muslim leaders, along with their students, who performed a Sufi dance in the shadow of the statue of the Assumption.
In a public statement, the bishop thanked those who made it possible that "tens of authorities of all religions come together from a week before the inauguration of the statue of the Assumption. The local government of Ambarawa has encouraged citizens to welcome the thousands of pilgrims who will come to visit Gua Karep Ambrawa in the coming days".