04/18/2016, 15.51
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Catholics celebrate the Virgin of Madhu during Sinhalese New Year

by Melani Manel Perera

Taking advantage of a three-day public holiday, thousands of Catholics headed to the Marian shrine, one of the country’s most famous religious sites. Whole families with children in tow prayed for their loved ones and thanked Our Lady for healings. “It was really worth spending three days of our holiday,” said one pilgrim.

Madhu (AsiaNews) – Thousands of Catholics took advantage of the three-day public holiday (13-15 April) marking Sinhalese and Tamil New Year celebrations, and went on a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Madhu, one of the country’s most famous and popular religious sites, located in the Diocese of Mannar (northern province).

Since the three-day holiday came just before the week-end, celebrations lasted five days.

"It was well worth spending three days of our holiday with Mother Mary,” said some faithful from Wellawatta.

“Surrounded by peace and quiet, the shrine was not as noisy as it usually is during religious celebrations,” they added. “We were able to spend a lot of time inside the church, resting both spiritually and physically."

Whole families came to the famous shrine from each of the country’s province. Even children were happy to make the long trek.

"I really like doing it,” said Saarangini Fernando, a girl from the diocese of Chilaw, “because I always find some new friends. So far, in all my visits to Mary of Madhu since 2010, I made ten good friends.”

Many came to thank Our Lady for the healing of some loved ones and pray for the health of the sick.

"I wanted to come here to Madhu with my whole family and recite 15 decades of the rosary to Mary and offer my heartfelt thanks for the healing of my dangerous cancer," said Newton Silva, 59, father of three from the diocese of Kurunegaka.

"My husband is never home because he is a businessman,” said his wife, a Tamil woman, “so every time, we take the opportunity to come here and say the rosary together. It gives us inner peace and joy."

Rupa Fernando, a 50-year-old woman from Nainamadama, believes Our Lady cured her from brain cancer after a year and a half of treatment.

"It was my dream to come to the Madhu shrine with my family, pray the rosary, and say the Litany of Our Lady. I am very glad I did."

The Madhu Shrine was built 400 years ago. After 1990, it welcomed thousands of people as the area turned into a virtual refugee camp for Tamils in northern Sri Lanka.

Hit during Sri Lanka’s civil war, the statue of Our Lady was put back in 2010. Since then, large crowds, including non-Catholics, visit the site each year on 15 August for the traditional feast day.

Overall, an estimated 600,000 people come every year from all over the country on pilgrimage to the shrine.

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