The Archdiocese of Melbourne is now home to a new statue of St John Paul the Great, which was officially blessed and unveiled by Bishop Martin Ashe on Saturday 30 April at the Ta’Pinu Shrine in Bacchus Marsh.

Also known as the All Nations Marian Centre, the Mass and unveiling was attended by members of the Maltese, Italian, Filipino, Hispanic, Sri Lankan, Indian, Portuguese, Slovenian, Vietnamese, Polish, Croatian, Mauritian and Indonesian communities from across the Archdiocese.

In his homily, Bishop Ashe said that Pope John Paul II’s devotion to Mary started from a young age, after his father took him to a Marian shrine in Poland.

‘Sometime soon after his mother died, his father took him as a young boy and his older brother to a Marian Shrine. His father said to them, “The Virgin Mary will look after you now”. From then on Mary became for him his spiritual mother. He often said that Mary brought him closer to Christ.

This was reflected in John Paul II’s papal motto, Totus Tuus. ‘This is the short version of a prayer: “I am all yours, and all that is mine is yours”,’ explained Bishop Ashe. It is the offering of his Papal Ministry to Mary to accompany him in his life as the leader of our Catholic community. Pope John Paul would also write this motto on each of his writings and speeches, again offering each of his works to Mary. In the many countries he went to visit, he would also include a visit to a Marian Shrine.’

Origins of Ta’ Pinu

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu (or in Maltese, “Il-Madonna ta’ Pinu”) originated on Gozo, an island in the Republic of Malta. In 1883, a Gozitan peasant and worker in a field, Karmni Grima, heard a female voice coming from the Chapel Pinu. The voice was calling to her in Maltese, saying Ejja, ejja! (“Come, come!”). Upon entering the chapel, the voice told Karmni to recite three Hail Marys, ‘in honour of the three days that my body rested in the tomb.’

When Karmni eventually shared this story with a friend named Francisco Portelli, he said that he too had heard a voice calling to him that same day. The Marian devotion spread quickly and from the late 1880s, locals would travel to the chapel and pray to the Virgin Mary.

A new, larger church was eventually built and consecrated in 1931, and since then pilgrimages to the now-Basilica have continued. It remains a popular devotion among the Maltese, which has spread around the world, including in Australia.

Overlooking the people of Melbourne

The Ta’Pinu Shrine in Bacchus Marsh was built in the early 1990s, with the first Mass taking place on the land in 1993. The Shrine, located just off the Western Freeway, features a concrete cross that overlooks the freeway and was installed to mark the site of the future church. The cross was blessed by Archbishop Francis Little in 1996, and at its foot features a solid brass cross previously blessed by Pope John Paul II.

On Saturday, Monsignor Benedict Camilleri, Founder and Director of the Ta’Pinu Shrine, shared that the idea for John Paul II’s statue was inspired by the Polish pope’s strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his support of the Shrine since its inception.

In fact, in 1997, Pope John Paul II blessed the stone reserved for the Ta’Pinu Church during a general audience in Rome. ‘That stone is intended to serve as the cornerstone of the big church that will one day be built on these Marian grounds, said Monsignor Camilleri.

Therefore, I felt that after our Lord Jesus Christ and the Immaculate Mother Mary, we must give special honour to St John Paul II. We pray that he will continue to intercede for us and for every person who comes here!’

For almost 30 years, thousands of people have travelled to the Shrine to pray at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has become a place for all ethnicities to gather, with 12 oratories erected by the various ethnic communities of Melbourne and dedicated to Our Lady’s many different titles.

The Ta’Pinu Shrine or All Nations Marian Centre is located at 15 Flanagans Drive, Merrimu.