Colombo (AsiaNews) – The presence of worshippers of every creed for the centennial celebrations of the Marian Shrine of Matara shows that despite the ongoing civil war Our Lady is “the light which, like a lighthouse, enlightens Sri Lanka’s multi-faith community,” this according to Mgr Harold Anthony Perera, bishop of Galle, who spoke on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the famous southern pilgrimage site, an event that was celebrated on September 8 and 9.
Devotion for Mary is widespread among Catholics and non Catholics alike in this part of the country. On December 26, 2004, the tsunami swept away the statue of Our Lady, but it “re-appeared” a few days later. For many Christians and non Christians this has become a reason for hope despite the devastating impact of the natural disaster.
Mgr Oswald Gomis, archbishop of Colombo, participated in yesterday’s mass, as did all the prelates from the Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (except for those from areas afflicted by the civil war) and Mgr Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio. About 100 priests, nuns and lawmakers also took part in the service.
The Marian shrine is located on a beach in the city of Matara. Pilgrims overflowing from the church filled the compound and the nearby streets that lead to the church.
The open-air mass was held on a platform built for the occasion.
In his homily in Sinhalese, Mgr Gomis urged the faithful “to dedicate their life to the Mother, calling for Her protection.”
“Only this way we can overcome the serious situation of sin in which we find ourselves,” he said, urging people to “take this message to your homes, schools and places of work.”