09/29/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Over 10 thousand people attend the funeral of an assassinated priest

Fr. Packiyaranjith died September 26 after a bomb, perhaps a mine, hit the car he was driving to bring aid to refugees and orphans. A priest dedicated to helping refugees in a country wracked by years of war. The final farewell of his bishop and the archbishop of Colombo.

Colombo (AsiaNews) –This morning in Mannar’s St. Sebastian Cathedral the funeral was held of Fr. Nicholaspilai Packiyaranjith, killed by an explosives attack on September 26th.  The solemn ceremony was presided over by Msgr. Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar, and concelebrated by the bishop of Anuradhapura Msgr. Norbert Andrade, the Sri Lanka Jesuit provincial Fr. Maria Antony, together with other religious and civil authorities, 120 priests 100 religious sisters and 10 thousand faithful.  Also present, representatives of international aid organisations.

From the Church the biggest procession Mannar has ever seen poured forth, with over 100 cars and 200 horse drawn carts following behind the hearse, accompanying it through to the cemetery.   In a sign of respect, all of the shops in Mannar remained closed.

Msgr Rayappu vehemently condemned the brutal murder of a priest who dedicated his life to helping the poor and marginalised, recalling that “enough blood has flown on this little island nation.  This blood cries for peace and not for vengeance. Therefore, we call on the International Community and all men and women of goodwill to condemn this killing and effectively voice their strong condemnation of the ongoing senseless war. We plead with the warring parties to bring to an end this war that had been mercilessly left to go on unabated for the last quarter of a century”.

Padre Packiyaranjith, 40, a native of Jaffna and a priest for 10 years was working as the coordinator of JRS in the District of Mannar, Sri Lanka, was hit late in the evening as he travelled from Pooneryn to Kalvi’laan (Kilinochchi), carrying food and aid to the refugee camps and orphanages Vidathalvu. The driver with him was also seriously injured.  No on has claimed responsibility for the attack so far, while army sources and rebels accuse each other.

All involved remember him as a dedicated priest who brought spiritual and material aid to the refugees.

Msgr. Oswald Gomes, Archbishop of Colombo, said he was “profoundly moved by the tragic death”, and remembered “with gratitude” his tireless service to the people, inviting all of the faithful to pray “that this incident will stir the peace process, so that he who has died, may not have died in vain”. 

 

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