Blessing of the sick and the country in Our Lady of Lanka Basilica in Tewatte (photos)
by Melani Manel Perera

For the Day of the Sick, pilgrims flocked from all over Sri Lanka. "We received blessings in body and spirit," some pilgrims said. Card Gualtiero Bassetti, who visited the Christian churches attacked at Easter, led the ceremony of the blessing of the sick.


Colombo (AsiaNews) – The blessing of the sick, the re-consecration of the country to the name of Mary and crowning of the statue of the Virgin took place at a solemn ceremony last Sunday at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka, Tewatte.

A special guest, Card Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Italy, led the ceremony of the blessing of the sick. Crowds of people, many from afar, were present. For some, "It is not only a blessing for our physical illnesses, but also for inner ones."

The Basilica in Tewatte is a national shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. This year the ceremony took place amid tight security measures, in the aftermath of the deadly Easter Sunday attacks.

Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, celebrated the Mass with translation into three languages: Sinhalese, Tamil and English.

A family from Puttalam, some 200 kilometres away, attended the service. Dilan and Jenita have three children. “We try to come here every year,” they said. “We need the sacred blessing and the intercession of Mary, because we are vulnerable people. This blessing takes care of us in body and spirit."

Calistus Perera and Jacintha Warnakula are fishermen from the Jaffna peninsula. Every year they travel to the shrine by train with their families. "We come here on a pilgrimage and receive mental and physical care and strength,” they said.

In his homily, the cardinal mentioned the critical events Sri Lanka went through this year. "We cannot imagine what steps this country is taking and where it is going. Too many selfish acts are happening. This is why we ask our Mother, Our Lady of Lanka, to save our people and our country from selfish actions."

"We must pray to Mary to bless our country in Spirit. We ask Mother to guide us, to give our clergy and other religious leaders the strength to cleanse this country from the bad things that happen."

"I noticed that during the blessing, many mothers and fathers raised their children or pictures of relatives,” Card Bassetti said. “I would like to tell you something from the bottom of my heart: in every face, I saw the face of Jesus. I pray for you, for our intentions. I also pray for the Church in Italy.”

Earlier, the prelate visited the three churches hit during the Easter attacks.  "I remember ancient words from the Church: ‘The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians’,” he said.

 (Photo credit: Fr Sunil de Silva)