Lakhs of Christians are expected to attend the prayer meetings of controversial American preacher Benny Hinn's 'Festival of Blessings' at the MMRDA grounds, Bandra-Kurla Complex next week. The motto of the meetings is 'Pray for India'.
Preparations are on for what could be the biggest ever gathering of Christians in the city, with the organisers expecting a million people each evening between February 13 and 15.
The event has 15,000 volunteers. The 1,200,000 square meter MMRDA grounds will be carpeted and 28 giant screens put up at the venue. 1,28,000 seats are reserved for VIPs and an enclosure provided for 17,000 sick and handicapped people. Bus services to the venue will be available from Bandra, Sion, Kurla and Santacruz railways stations.
Organisers say the meeting could easily be the biggest Hinn has addressed so far. 'He has a large television audience. Abroad, he has held meeting in stadiums. But with space for a million people, this could be his largest meeting,' said Vijay Lazarus, one of the organisers.
However, the Catholic Church in Mumbai has warned its members against attending the meeting. The church says Hinn's teachings and claims of miracles do not reflect Catholic beliefs. The church accuses him of taking away people from the churches to his own 'Benny Hinn Ministries.'
Father Pravin Fernandes, spokesperson for the archbishop of Bombay, said, 'Though the church has officially discouraged its members from attending, my guess is that many Catholics will go for the prayers anyway.'
Cyril Dara, an Agripada resident, said he had no plans to attend the gathering. 'Hinn is a strong preacher. But he is diverting people from the church ministries,' he said.
But Gul Kripalani, one of the main organisers of the meeting, said it was not their intention to bring disunity in the church. 'Disunity has been brought by the walls of the churches and religions,' he said.
Why is Benny Hinn surrounded by controversy?