Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s Church has called on all Catholics, religious and laity, to take as a model “in this critical time” in the country’s history, the Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka, whose Feast Day fell last Tuesday, January 16.
Mgr Vianney Fernando, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference, used the occasion to ask the community for the miracle that would lead to his canonisation and not forget the one who “made it possible for our Church to rise from its ashes”.
“This year,” Mgr Fernando said, “we celebrate the feast Day of the Blessed Vaz at a time of grave national crisis, in particular in the peace process”.
“Vaz was a model for us all; not only in terms of his unparalleled missionary zeal but also in the way he served all the communities of our country without any distinction”.
Joseph Vaz was born in the Portuguese colony of Goa in 1651, now an Indian state. He was ordained in 1676 in the Congregation of Saint Philip Neri. He came as a missionary to Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), where the Dutch East Indies Company had expelled all missionaries and pledged that any priest caught on the island would be executed.
Given the circumstances, the Blessed Vaz had to operate underground to bring help to local Catholics. He brought his mission as far as Colombo. He translated the Gospels into Tamil and Sinhalese. He died in Kandy on January 16, 1711 and was beatified on January 21, 1995, by Pope John Paul II in Colombo.
There are not that many churches dedicated to the Blessed in Sri Lanka, but each parish celebrates him, albeit on different days. Some held festivities last Tuesday, January 16; others will do so on Sunday, January 21.
Mgr Fernando has called on the local clergy to say Joseph Vaz’s name during the Eucharistic prayer.
“We cannot forget the mission Vaz accomplished. He gave our Church the means to rise again from its ashes, out of the dark days of persecution by the colonisers,” Mgr Fernando said.