» 07/24/2014, 00.00
Bishop of Mannar: Pope Francis’ visit, a consolation for victims of war
Msgr. Rayappu Joseph, Bishop of Mannar, talks about expectations ahead of the apostolic trip scheduled for January 2015. The Church's mission in the north ravaged by civil war, with the population "left to itself" by the government and institutions. The discrimination suffered by the Tamil minority, and "the only possible solution: a federal and truly democratic state."
Mannar (AsiaNews) - " Pope Francis's visit will
be a great consolation for the
people in the north of Sri Lanka who
have been affected by war and
who feel abandoned", says Msgr. Rayappu Joseph,
Bishop of Mannar (Northern
Province), home to one of the pontiff's destinations
during his apostolic journey to the
island scheduled for the first
half of January 2015.
After Colombo, the island's capital,
the Pope will travel to the shrine of
Our Lady of Madhu, an important place
of pilgrimage for all of South Asia. Every year more than 600
thousand people come to pray to
the Virgin there.
"He will celebrate a Mass here
- the prelate told AsiaNews
- but he will
also meet the
survivors of the civil war, to
listen to their painful testimonies
and pray with and for them. We expect a large turnout from all
the dioceses of the north and some
of the South". The population,
he adds, "welcomes his visit
as a blessing from God, and we thank the Lord for
The diocese of Mannar - which includes the
districts of Mannar and Vavuniya
- is part of the
"Catholic belt" that
stretches from Negombo (Central
Province) in Jaffna, as the area colonized by the
Portuguese - who brought the first Catholic missionaries - is called. Erected in 1981,
according to the latest available data (2004)
it has a population of over 219 thousand people, 33%
of them Catholic.
From 1983 to 2009, the island was the scene of a bloody civil war between the government and
Tamil Tiger rebels (Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam), an organization fighting to create an
independent state in the north and east of the country, largely Tamil.
"During this war - Msgr. Joseph tells AsiaNews - we suffered losses of all kinds: human lives, houses, properties. Some of our
priests were killed, churches and places we launched
were destroyed. The population has been abandoned to itself, with only our presence to
help them. I have to thank Caritas,
who did a great job to help people in those years. "
Yet, says the bishop, "five years on
from the end of the conflict, there has been no rehabilitation for the survivors. Nobody, neither the government nor anyone else, has taken responsibility for the
89 thousand war widows, the orphans, the maimed, people with psychological trauma. "
"The support and rehabilitation
of a human being is a long journey" - said the bishop. "Children must be educated, clothed and treated if
they are sick. We are there taking care
of all of this with the help of friends and benefactors. But the government is not doing any rehabilitation
work: they are only concerned with building roads and
bridges and I cannot understand
why they are not implementing measures
for the families of the thousands of people who have died in war for the maimed,
for those suffering from psychological
Since the end of the war, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has initiated a number of development projects - especially in tourism -
to make Sri Lanka
the "Wonder of Asia". "With all these initiatives, the authorities are trying
to get money from foreign lenders - says Msgr.
Joseph -. I
understand that there must be progress, but the government should make its people its priority. Fostering the development of the people
, and not allow
them to slide backwards"
Next to support social,
added the bishop, "the Church also gives religious support. We try to
support them and help them grow in faith, taking care of
the sacramental aspects. We are
there present, to accompany people
throughout the rebuilding and
rehabilitation of their lives. "
The problem of survivors'
closely connected with the
living conditions of the Tamils,
the country's second largest ethnic
group (11.2%) after the Sinhalese
(74.88%). The war became a real ethnic conflict between the two communities, and even today the
Tamils complain of unequal treatment and undergo
violations by the authorities.
Msgr. Joseph believes "the current problems that have existed for a hundred years, have just one solution, which is finding a communion
in each other's diversity. Tamils and Sinhalese cultures,
languages and traditions. We
could follow the India model and create a federal state,
a single framework in which to implement a decentralization of power. But the government does not want this: It would have to change the Constitution, and
the president. This personality has too
often used his power, especially against minorities"(GM)
20/03/2009 SRI LANKA
Young people from south visit peers in north, under the tragedy of the war
An initiative promoted by the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement. For three days, 25 young people from the south of the island lived together with 120 young people from the north. They worked together in the hospital of Mannar, among the victims of the conflict. The young people from the south discovered the brutality of the war, while those from the north found out that not all of the Sinhalese are soldiers, and that "they are nice people."
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Pope in Sri Lanka: A visit to reconcile differences
Pope Francis has arrived in Colombo, welcomed by dances, elephants and children's choirs, together with military honors. A country still marked by the consequences of the civil war, which has claimed more than 60 thousand lives. "Pursuing the truth" about the horrors of war not "to open old wounds," but "for their healing." Openness and joint efforts among members of different religions. Economic development that cares about human dignity, without excluding anyone. The new president Maithripala Sirisena wants to work for "peace and reconciliation" of his people.
28/05/2012 SRI LANKA
Five thousand Catholics, Muslims and Hindus defend Mannar bishop against "vile" accusations
Sri Lanka's Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, a Muslim, accuses Mgr Rayappu Joseph of stirring the Tamil community against Muslims in his region. People from across the country come together to demand an official apology. "No one defends our rights like the bishops," Muslims and Hindus say.
11/08/2014 SRI LANKA
For Mannar bishop, investigation into civil war abductions is a whitewash
Mgr Rayappu Joseph refuses to testify at an investigation by the Presidential Commission in his district. In a letter explaining his decision, he says, "Sri Lanka's problem is the lack of political will to end impunity".
28/03/2011 SRI LANKA
Bishop of Mannar donates land to 52 IDP families
Mullikkulam village has been transformed into a Navy outpost. In exchange families have been offered the Kayakuli area in the middle of the jungle. But for its deforestation, all borne by the population, no help has come from government and non-profit organizations.
Card. Tong’s article on China-Holy See dialogue, arouses joy and dismay
The Hong Kong bishop’s optimism over a change in the method of appointing bishops and the function of the Patriotic Association. But it is unclear whether it is real change or just nominal, in words. Underground bishops are patriotic and love their country, but the Party is suspicious of them. Freedom in episcopal appointments is “essential", but the bishops are not free to exercise their ministry. Patriotic bishops controlled in their visits with members of the universal Church. The "bugs" (hidden microphones) in a bishop’s office.
Card. Tong: The future of Sino-Vatican dialogue from an ecclesiological point of view
Card. John Tong
The Hong Kong Cardinal outlines the steps that hope to propel dialogue between China and the Holy See. Themes include the Pope's role in the appointment of bishops; A change of vision in the Patriotic Association; the possible integration of the underground bishops in the Episcopal Conference. A new article by card. John Tong, following a previous article published a few months ago on "Communion of the Church in China with the universal Church."
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