Most Catholics gathered at the site for vespers on Saturday, a day before. Mgr Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, also led a solemn procession, together with Mgr Thomas Savundaranavagam, bishop of Jaffna, Mgr Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar, Mgr Winston Fernando, bishop of Badulla and Mgr Norbert Andradi, bishop of Anuradhapura.
A solemn Mass at 6.30 am began the next day, Sunday 15 August, celebrated by Mgr Ranjith and other bishops and priests, in Sinhala, Tamil and Latin.
This year, the festivity also brought to a close the Church’s National Family Week that the National Laity Commission had launched on 6 August in the diocese of Mannar. ‘The Family is the teacher of Christian values’ was the event’s main theme.
Mgr Winston Fernando, who heads the Laity Commission, led daily meetings with families, youth and children, together with diocesan coordinators for family apostolate.
“We want to pass on good principles to each family,” Fr Julian Patrick Perera, director of the National Family Apostolate, told AsiaNews.
“By participating in these daily meetings,” held in both Sinhala and Tamil, “the faithful can be helped to renew their family life,” he added. “Those who participated in our meetings, whether Catholic or not, were able to learn about how to lead an exemplary life.”
In his homily at the Madhu shrine, Mgr Ranjith reminded those present that “in the north there are families who lost sisters and brothers; families that lost fathers and mothers; families who lost husbands and wives. Some of them are huddled under makeshift shelters made from thin metal sheets. These suffering people belong to the same family loved by God.”
The family is the source of love, he explained. And love, which comes from God, is passed on from parents to children and between spouses.
“Many married couples do not want children; others are postponing them,” he said. However, he reminded his audience that “for Christians, the family is a small church”.