08/31/2010, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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“Without the Blessed Vaz, there would be no priest on the island”

by Melani Manel Perera
Mgr Vianny Fernando presents this way the movie on the life of the Blessed Joseph Vaz, considered the second founder of the Church in Sri Lanka. His apostolate occurred during the persecution of Catholics by Dutch Protestants. The Jubilee Year celebrates the 300th anniversary of his death.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The “Blessed Joseph Vaz was our beloved Apostle. In many ways, he was a pioneer in the history of our country and the Christian faith. In fact, after Dutch persecution, which lasted 150 years, there would be no priest on the island without him,” said Bishop Vianny Fernando, president of National Joseph Vaz Secretariat as he presented a movie last Wednesday on the life of the Blessed at the auditorium of Caritas-Sri Lanka in Colombo. Dutch Protestants ruled the island in the 17th century and systematically discriminated against Catholics who had emerged under the previous Portuguese rule. “It is a story of a person burning with God’s love, who wanted to bear all the risks and serve the Church in Sri Lanka,” the bishop added.

The Sinhala-language film is an hour and 40 minutes long and has met with great acclaim for the quality of its direction, script, music and lighting. It is the story of a missionary who dedicated his entire life to set up and develop the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka (pictured a scene from the movie). Many bishops, priests and nuns as well as a large crowd and some politicians and the actors attended the screening.

The event is part of the 300th anniversary of the Blessed’s death on 16 January 2011. Mgr Malcolm Ranjith proclaimed Vaz’s Jubilee Year last 17 January 2010, feast day of the Blessed, in the church dedicated to him in Makola, Colombo archdiocese.

For the entire year ending on 16 January 2011, a special hymn and prayers will be recited in most of the country’s churches at the end of festive Masses.

Fr Alex Dassanayake, vice-postulator of the National Joseph Vaz Secretariat, which sponsored the movie, thanked Sanjaya Nirmal, the author of the script who also directed the movie.

The movie was made possible by the contribution of LKR 800,000 (US$ 7,000) by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Christian Affairs and donations from bishops and the faithful.

It is hoped that the movie will be released in December with subtitles in English and Tamil.

Mgr Winston Fernando, bishop of Badulla, told AsiaNews that the “movie is a true source of inspiration, especially for non-Christians. We appreciate the talent of the writer; it would almost seem that he was divinely inspired.”

Neeta Fernando, a Catholic actress, told AsiaNews that she was happy to be in the movie. “It was very emotional with most actors non-Christians. It was incredible that we could do everything in ten days.”

The Blessed Vaz, the ‘Apostle of Sri Lanka’, was born on 21 April 1651 in Goa. He began his missionary work in Sri Lanka in April 1687 at a time of persecution by Dutch colonisers, and continued it until his death in 1711. Pope John Paul II declared him a Blessed in 1995.

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