Colombo (AsiaNews) - "I am a priest and I have to be there for all" was the motto of Fr. Vito Perniola, an Italian Jesuit for 75 years in Sri Lanka, who April 10 last turned 98 years of age. Those who know him, describe him as a humble, brilliant and shy man. A spiritual guide for many, religious and secular, Christian or non. A polyglot, Fr. Perniola fluent in Latin, Portuguese, German, French, English, Sinhalese, Sanskrit and Pali. A long and full life, dedicated to study and research. In addition to a grammar book in Pali language, published in 1997 for the Pali Text Society, Oxford, he wrote a history of the Church in Sri Lanka (from 1505 to 1920) in 19 volumes of about 500 pages each, based on original documents consulted in local and non local archives.
Fr. Perniola has condensed his encounters and life experiences in seven books published in English and Sinhalese. Martin Costa, founder and president of the "Purnodaya" Institute for poor children, says that this is a way to "nurture and lead the reader to a deeper relationship with God, to help people overcome the difficulties that every human being faces day after day. " "It is a beacon, a pillar for the Church and the laity - he continues - and I thank God for giving the world a person like Fr. Perniola.
For Nimal Ignatius Perera, national secretary of the Small Christian community (ASIP) and former Jesuit brother, the missionary is a "strong but gentle” person with a big heart and deep communion with the Lord." The man first met the priest when he was a member of the community in Wattala, from 1976 to 1979. He calls him "a man with a special charisma, able to recognize the will of God and guide those who seek his help and his advice."
The Jesuit has devoted much of his mission to the study and research. He graduated in philosophy and theology at the Faculty of ecclesiastical studies, he earned a doctorate in linguistics at the University of Pune (Maharashtra State, India). The University of London also awarded him an honorary degree in Indo-Aryan. However, according to Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, human rights activist and political analyst, "it is a pity that his own community and church leaders have not paid much attention to his work. Instead, his books show a wide experience, the encounter with the Lord. He will always remain for us priests, an example to follow. "
On 21 November, Fr. Vito Perniola will celebrate his 68th year of priesthood.