08/27/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Praying at Our Lady of Tewatte to heal sick people and a sick nation

by Melani Manel Perera
On the National Day of the Sick, about 500,000 pilgrims gather in the famous basilica from around the country. Everyone prayed for their own physical well-being but also to heal the country from war, corruption and human rights violations.

Tewatte (AsiaNews) – May the “Lord heal us and Our Motherland” was the theme of the National Day for the Sick celebrations held at Our Lady of Lanka Basilica in Tewatte. Some 500,000 Christians from around the country as well as people from other faiths were present at the event, all keen on praying for peace in the country.

About 300 priests and religious from various dioceses attended the bilingual (Sinhalese and Tamil) blessing of the sick. The apostolic nuncio, Mgr Mario Zenario; the archbishop of Sri Lanka, Mgr Oswald Gomis; his predecessor, Mgr Nicholas Marcus Fernando; and Mgrs Thomas Savundaranayagam, bishop of Jaffna, and Mgr Marius Peiris, auxiliary bishop of Colombo, were also present.

During the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary, pilgrims called upon Our Lady to give inner peace and health but also to heal the country from its many ills.

“This is my tenth year of attending the blessing of the sick and I totally feel the touch of Mother Mary’s love for me,” said 78-year-old, wheelchair-bound Colin Emmanuel from Kirimatiyana parish in the diocese of Chilaw, 125 km north of the capital.

Tamil Jesimin Pararajasinghem and her husband Paul Raj said that they felt duty-bound “to pray not only for their own physical ailments but also for the evils that affect the nation like corruption, injustice, human rights violations.”

“We need this war to end so that peace may return to Sri Lanka and its ethnic groups go back to living in harmony,” they said.

According to Fr Merl Shanti Perera, who manages the basilica, “people from other faiths were present at the celebrations.”

Preparations for the Day of the Sick began last Wednesday. Pilgrims arrived from across the country, setting up tents under the trees that surround the church. The administration provided drinking water as well as sanitation and health care facilities.

The Tewatte basilica, north of Colombo, was built starting in 1946 in thanksgiving for sparing the island the horrors of the Second World War.

“Our Lady saved our wonderful country once before from war,” said a female student, “and so I believe She can save it again now in this crucial moment” in its history.

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