Madhu (AsiaNews) - The call for national
reconciliation which marked the words of Pope Francis in a
Sri Lanka still
bearing the wounds of 30 years of civil war, resonated
with particular strength and
meaning today during the Marian
prayer in the sanctuary Our Lady
of the Rosary in Madhu, situated in the north of the
island, 220 km from Colombo.
It is a Tamil region. Here the battles fought were particularly harsh. Built 400 years ago, since 1990 the church has hosted thousands of people and the area which was declared a demilitarized zone became a real refugee camp. Nevertheless, it was not spared from the bombing, to the extent that the shrine was closed and the statue taken away and made safe. It was only returned in 2010, when an immense crowd attended, the 15th August traditional festival which involves not only the Christians.
Even today, here is the afternoon, there was an ocean of people (in the photo) who accompanied the Pope's arrival with songs in Tamil and the sound of drums. He was greeted with the traditional flower necklace. And in this place the words of Francis on war, forgiveness and reconciliation were particularly evocative - the Pope also freed a dove - and he also made reference to "justice" which the defeated Tamils, still seek.
"There are families here today which suffered greatly in the long conflict which tore open the heart of Sri Lanka. Many people, from north and south alike, were killed in the terrible violence and bloodshed of those years. No Sri Lankan can forget the tragic events associated with this very place, or the sad day when the venerable statue of Mary, dating to the arrival of the earliest Christians in Sri Lanka, was taken away from her shrine".
"But Our Lady remained always with you. She is the mother of every home, of every wounded family, of all who are seeking to return to a peaceful existence. Today we thank her for protecting the people of Sri Lanka from so many dangers, past and present. Mary never forgot her children on this resplendent island. Just as she never left the side of her Son on the Cross, so she never left the side of her suffering Sri Lankan children".
"Today we want to thank Our Lady for that presence. In the wake of so much hatred, violence and destruction, we want to thank her for continuing to bring us Jesus, who alone has the power to heal open wounds and to restore peace to broken hearts. But we also want to ask her to implore for us the grace of God's mercy. We ask also for the grace to make reparation for our sins and for all the evil which this land has known".
"It is not easy to do this. Yet only when we come to understand, in the light of the Cross, the evil we are capable of, and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance. Only then can we receive the grace to approach one another in true contrition, offering and seeking true forgiveness. In this difficult effort to forgive and find peace, Mary is always here to encourage us, to guide us, to lead us. Just as she forgave her Son's killers at the foot of his Cross, then held his lifeless body in her hands, so now she wants to guide Sri Lankans to greater reconciliation, so that the balm of God's pardon and mercy may bring true healing to all".
"Finally, we want to ask Mother Mary to accompany with her prayers the efforts of Sri Lankans from both Tamil and Sinhalese speaking communities to rebuild the unity which was lost. Just as her statue came back to her shrine of Madhu after the war, so we pray that all her Sri Lankan sons and daughters may come home to God in a renewed spirit of reconciliation and fellowship. Dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to be with you in Mary's house. Let us pray for one another. Above all, let us ask that this shrine may always be a house of prayer and a haven of peace. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Madhu, may all people find here inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all the children of this beloved land"