03/05/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Thousands of Tamil and Sinhalese youth recite Rosary for peace

by Melani Manel Perera
The 60th National Day of the Child is celebrated at Tewatte’s National Basilica; youths from all over the archdiocese of Colombo pray to Our Lady to bring peace, “true peace, the one children have never known.” For Archbishop Gomis, it is an opportunity “to pray as one family.”

Colombo (AsiaNews) – About 20,000 Sinhalese and Tamil youth took part last Saturday in the 60th National Day of the Child in Our Lady of Lanka Basilica in Tewatte. It gave them the opportunity to pray to Our Lady that she “may bring the country lasting peace.”

Before the mass, celebrated by the Archbishop of Colombo Mgr Oswald Gomis, Sunday school children from the whole archdiocese recited the Rosary.

The day’s theme was “Pray for peace in faith” and the bilingual Tamil and Sinhalese liturgical function was celebrated by about a hundred priests and religious.

“We are truly devoted to Our Lady,” said Mgr Gomis in his homily, “and at least once a year we meet to pray as one family. Coming to the basilica is a double privilege: we grow spiritually through prayer and we meet friends from other schools, which strengthens our unity.”

“It is our mass which we celebrate every first Saturday in March,” A. Subajini, a 15-year-old Tamil student, told AsiaNews. “On this occasion we feel like one family made stronger by Mary’s blessing.”

Young people called on Her to finally bring peace, “true peace, the one we children have never known,” said the teenage girl.

For the past year, ethnic conflict has reared its head once again. A war between Tamil rebels and government forces broke out in the early 1980s and civilians have not been spared. There have been at least 4,000 victims since December 2005.

The National Day of the Child was first held in 1947 on the initiative of Mgr Jean-Marie Masson, then archbishop of Colombo.

The prelate founded the basilica of Tewatte which was built in 1946 as an act of thanksgiving to Our Lady for sparing the island the horrors of World War Two.

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