Katchchateevu Island hosted celebrations over the weekend with more than 2,000 pilgrims from Tamil Nadu. The auxiliary bishop of Colombo led the Mass along with Vicar General Rev Anton Ranjith Pillainayagam.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The annual feast of St Anthony of Padua took place recently on Katchchateevu Island with the participation of almost 3,000 Sri Lankan and more than 2,000 Indian pilgrims, including several fishermen and members of the clergy, this according to the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
“The Festival underscores strong people to people ties between India and Sri Lanka while also paving way for close interaction between fishermen communities of the maritime neighbours,” the Indian High Commission said in a press release.
Auxiliary Bishop Anton Ranjith Pillainayagam of Colombo and the Vicar General of the Diocese of Jaffna, Rev Pathinathan Josephdas Jebaratnam, led a Mass on Saturday for the feast of St Anthony of Padua, a figure dear to fishermen.
Some 2,198 worshippers arrived on the island on trawlers from Rameswaram, Thangachchimadam, Karaikkaal and Nagapattinam on the coast of Tamil Nadu (India) while another 2,900 faithful came from Jaffna, Mannar, Thalaimannar, Chilaw and Negombo (Sri Lanka) travelling by ferry or their own boats to take part in the celebrations.
Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda welcomed the pilgrims upon their arrival on Friday, a day of special prayers and a late evening mass.
In the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented celebrating the feast of St Anthony in Katchchateevu.
In addition to the Eucharistic celebrations, this year’s gathering saw some Indian and Sri Lankan pilgrims set up handicrafts stalls with items for sale, enlivening the atmosphere.
India’s Consul General in Jaffna, Raakesh Natraj, and other officials also attended the celebrations.
The Indian government provided financial assistance to organisers, the Indian High Commission said, while the Sri Lankan Navy, which has a permanent presence on the island, provided necessary services, including sanitary facilities, drinking water, temporary tents and electricity.
Katchchateevu Island is located 24 km from Rameshwaram (India) and 70 km from Jaffna (Sri Lanka). India ceded the island to Sri Lanka under the 1974 Maritime Boundary Agreement, which guarantees Indian fishermen the right to fish in the area.
On the island, pilgrims from India can visit St Anthony's Church without a Sri Lankan visa or travel permit. Originally, the church was a small chapel erected in 1806 and enlarged in 1828.