February 19, 2001
volume 12, no. 50

Our Lady of Madhu a pilgrim of peace in Sri Lanka

    COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (Fides, Feb 17, 2001) - To help lift the country out of civil war and a general crisis of moral and spiritual values, Sri Lanka is turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In March the statue of Our Lady of Madhu is to be taken to the southern areas of the Island to encourage prayers and activity for peace. Sri Lankans, Christians and non, are very devoted Our Lady of Madhu; Sinhalese and Tamils, who are fighting a civil war, can often be seen praying together before the revered statue of the Blessed Virgin at Madhu Sri Lanka’s national shrine situated in the north of the Island.

    Peace talks between the government and the Tamil separatists with the mediation of Norway, have not yet produced concrete results: civilians continue to suffer the consequences. On February 4, the 53rd anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence there was a large demonstration in Colombo against President Kumaratunga’s policy to protest the economic and social crisis. There is growing discontent for a rising cost of living, increases in transport, food and fuel.

    Presenting the Church initiative, at a press conference on February 13, Bishop Malcom Ranjith, head of the Bishops’ Peace Justice and Human development commission explained the reasons for organizing the nationwide pilgrimage – the first in 450 years – to restore harmony to the country. "Today more than ever before in this history of our country, we are experiencing a serious crisis in the application of moral and spiritual principles and the value of life" he said. The Bishop denounced violation against the dignity of human beings, adding that "corruption and social instability and violence has become the order of the day. Thousands of people have suffered and are still suffering not only at being displaced by war but through loss of life, limb and property".

    The president of the Sri Lankan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Oswald Gomis, who presided the press conference, said that the motivation behind the procession was that it was known that "at the feet of Our Lady that the two communities experience true fraternity".

    Bishop Joseph Rayappu of Mannar with the statue, will be welcomed by Bishop Gomis to the diocese of Anuradhapura. From there the statue will be taken to Chilaw, Colombo, Kurunegala and Kandy. Bishop Gomis emphasized that the arrival of the statue would provide an opportunity for Catholics in the respective dioceses to express not only their love and devotion to Our Lady but also to seek her intercession for peace. "Dur to the war - Bishop Malcom Ranjith added – a generation of youngsters has never seen a time of peace." He also recalled that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference "urges the government and the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam, to persevere in negotiations for peace."

    On March 19 Archbishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando, the auxiliary Marius Peries, the clergy and the faithful will welcome the statue of Our Lady of Madhu to the archdiocese of Colombo. In preparation for the visit on Saturday February 24, at six in the evening, bells will peal in all churches and chapels throughout the archdiocese This will mark the beginning of Masses, Holy Hours and novenas. On Sunday 25 the theme of Justice, Peace and reconciliation will be highlighted at all Masses and a special Sunday liturgy is being prepared for this purpose.

February 19, 2001
volume 12, no. 50
News from the Universal Church
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