Kurunegala (AsiaNews) - The first celebration dedicated to the first Sri Lanka saint, canonised by Pope Francis two weeks ago, was held on Saturday in Kurunegala, in the northwest of the country, where the saint lived his mission for a long time. The parish of Galgamuwa still retains traces of his presence.
This year, the Diocese of Kurunegala began the pastoral ministry by launching a "Year of the Child". Hence, more than 6,000 children from 98 Sunday catechism school attended the first Mass celebrated in honour of the new saint.
Card Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo led the ceremony, concelebrated by the local bishop, Mgr Harold Anthony, and dozens of priests who handed out more than 4,000 communion wafers.
"Joseph Vaz left his family and his country [India] and came to us as an apostle, after knowing all the sufferings and problems our Catholic Church encountered," the cardinal said.
"He trod every Sri Lanka beach, visited many, many villages and helped Catholics to keep the faith. He faced many difficulties and sufferings, but did not abandon his mission, keeping close to Jesus and walking forward."
"He died at the age of 63 years serving God in a special way, but never in his childhood could he imagine that he would come to Sri Lanka and carry out such service for God and Catholics. "
For this reason, "All you children must pray and love Jesus more, asking for God's blessing to be another Joseph Vaz . . . another saint for your country You can do it!" Card Ranjith said.
When the prelate asked the children who wanted to become a new saint for Sri Lanka, hundreds of boys and girls raised their hands.
"We Sri Lankan Catholics have a great responsibility to spread the news about the figure of the first saint and follow his life," said Rita da Silva, a mother of two, who attended the ceremony. "This way we can teach and guide our children on the road sketched by Saint Joseph Vaz."
John Amaratunga, the recently appointed Christian Affairs minister, attended the Mass, along with several former parliamentarians.