09/10/2007, 00.00
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Tsunami-hit Marian shrine in Matara celebrates 100 years

by Melani Manel Perera
Celebrations for the famous Marian shrine hit by the tsunami in 2004 end. Some 300,000 pilgrims come from the entire island. Galle bishop calls Our Lady the “light that enlightens” the country divided by ethnic conflict.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The presence of worshippers of every creed for the centennial celebrations of the Marian Shrine of Matara shows that despite the ongoing civil war Our Lady is “the light which, like a lighthouse, enlightens Sri Lanka’s multi-faith community,” this according to Mgr Harold Anthony Perera, bishop of Galle, who spoke on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the famous southern pilgrimage site, an event that was celebrated on September 8 and 9.

Devotion for Mary is widespread among Catholics and non Catholics alike in this part of the country. On December 26, 2004, the tsunami swept away the statue of Our Lady, but it “re-appeared” a few days later. For many Christians and non Christians this has become a reason for hope despite the devastating impact of the natural disaster.

Mgr Oswald Gomis, archbishop of Colombo, participated in yesterday’s mass, as did all the prelates from the Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (except for those from areas afflicted by the civil war) and Mgr Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio. About 100 priests, nuns and lawmakers also took part in the service.

The Marian shrine is located on a beach in the city of Matara. Pilgrims overflowing from the church filled the compound and the nearby streets that lead to the church.

The open-air mass was held on a platform built for the occasion.

In his homily in Sinhalese, Mgr Gomis urged the faithful “to dedicate their life to the Mother, calling for Her protection.”

“Only this way we can overcome the serious situation of sin in which we find ourselves,” he said, urging people to “take this message to your homes, schools and places of work.”

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See also
Lent in Sri Lanka: “Christ is our hope” for reconciliation
Lent, a time for forgiveness in war-torn Sri Lanka
Marian shrine in Madhu to become ‘peace zone’
Religious and business leaders together for a ‘road map’ out of the crisis
Bishops’ solidarity with Tamils forced to leave Colombo


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