03/29/2010, 00.00
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Retreats, pilgrimages and collections to prepare for Easter

by Melani Manel Perera
The faithful of the dioceses involved in prayer, retreats and pilgrimages to commemorate the Holy Cross and prepare themselves for Easter. Helping the poor, with donations of money. The stories of individual dioceses.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The Catholic communities of Sri Lanka are preparing for the celebrations of Holy Week, with an intensive program of prayers, retreats and pilgrimages. AsiaNews reports on the initiatives of individual parishes and communities.

Diocese of Mannar

The Vicar General Father Victor Soosai tells AsiaNews that on the evening of Friday, March 26 over 4 thousand faithful made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Parappukadantan, parish of Alkaddiveli, about 21 km east of Mannar. They travelled from their parishes, led by priests to converge on the shrine, for the first time in 3 years because the pilgrimage was not possible given that the shrine was in the battle zone of the civil war between the army and Tamil Tigers.

On the arrival of the pilgrims, Mgr. Rayappu celebrated Mass at 7.30 am, recalling Christ's love for mankind and the need to leave behind earthly concerns to follow Christ, in the example St. Paul.

More than 1,300 young people went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu from March 26 to 28 for the Lenten retreat and confessions, under the spiritual guidance of Father Fr Jesurajah, diocesan director for youth. On the evening of Saturday, March 27 they attended the Mass with the bishop and on the morning of March 28 there was mass with Vicar General Father Victor Soosai.

Diocese of Kurunegala

On Friday, March 26 there was the traditional Way of the Cross for the 6th Friday of Lent, under the guidance of the bishop of the diocese, Mgr. Harold Anthony Perera. During Lent, the faithful took turns in welcoming the Holy Cross to their homes. The faithful have also made donations, which will be allocated to healthcare for the poor of the diocese.

There was a Via Crucis and a mass dedicated to youth and students of the diocese, organized by University students and university chaplain Father Wayamba Broono Gamini, at the Holy Angels Girls School, with the participation of the same father Broono Gamini, Rufus Hilary and mother superior of school Sr. Mary Beatrice.

Diocese of Trincomalee

Father Luxman Peiris, pastor of the church Kantal, led 20 Catholic families in the parish's Lenten meditations. Every Sunday before Mass, they meditated together on the Cross for Holy Week and participated in the traditional functions.

Diocese of Anuradhapura

Father Sarath Peiris, a priest of the parish of Mihintale, tells AsiaNews that the faithful, in preparation for Easter, " have lived moments of prayer, the Stations of the Cross, Masses, fasting, meditation, sharing money with needy. We did not want to make pilgrimages outside our community.... but to live a spiritual retreat in the parish. " "We were called by our bishop ... to help the brethren affected by war, with advice but also addressing their social needs."

Diocese of Columbus

In addition to traditional Lenten celebrations, some believers participated in pilgrimages and spiritual exercises, even as a means to build unity, understanding, sharing among parishioners to listen to people who have no voice and act to achieve peace, justice and reconciliation. In many villages there were Stations of the Cross, some as long as 30 to 50 kilometers, to commemorate the Holy Cross as a symbol of Lent and unity of families and parishes. Many marched while observing fasts. In some parishes every Friday and Sunday there were Stations of the Cross, before the evening Mass. In many others, Stations of the Cross were marked at Mass every Friday evening. Here, too many families have had the Holy Cross in their homes.

Parishes throughout the diocese, institutions and schools, at the request of Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, have held special collections of money as a Lenten sacrifice, for the poor of the archdiocese.

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