11/08/2017, 15.09
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In Colombo Caritas celebrates 50 years of activity for the poor

by Melani Manel Perera

Fr Joe Fernando founded the Catholic Church’s main charitable organisation in Sri Lanka in 1968. Today it has a national centre and 13 diocesan offices. A new website has been set up. The official song of the jubilee was presented. The charity’s 2018-2021 action plan was made public.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Caritas is celebrating its first 50 years of activity in Sri Lanka serving people.

The opening ceremony of the Golden Jubilee took place yesterday in the garden of the National Centre in Colombo. It began with a Mass of Thanksgiving, officiated by Mgr Vianney Fernando, bishop of Kandy and Caritas president.

Other initiatives are planned for the coming months to mark half a century of work in favour of the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable.

Fr Joe Fernando, a missionary motivated by a desire to put into practice the Church's social doctrine, founded Caritas-Sedec, the Catholic Church’s main charity in Sri Lanka, in 1968. He was conscious of the need to serve the poor and disadvantaged sectors of society.

Over the years, the Catholic charity broadened its activities by setting up a centre for the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development. Today there are 13 diocesan offices covering all of the country’s districts.

Mr Palitha, a Buddhist who has worked as a driver for Caritas for many years, also took attended the ceremony. "It was a great honour for me to take part in the Thanksgiving Mass," he told AsiaNews.

Senthel Sooryakumarry, co-ordinator of the Caritas Office in Trincomalee, was also there. "I am proud to work for Caritas as a social worker,” she said. “For 16 years I have been in the service of the diocese. I love the mission and vision of Caritas because there are no divisions between Buddhists, Christians, Hindus or Muslims. Caritas serves all human beings."

During the homily, Mgr Emmanuel Fernando, auxiliary bishop of Colombo, mentioned some of the salient moments in the history Caritas-Sedec, from its first steps to the help it provided to the victims of conflicts, natural disasters and poverty. All this was based on the “foremost virtue of love.”

Mgr Fernando noted that in the world the Catholic Church "has always been on the part of the people. The revolutions that have occurred over the centuries have prompted the Church to look into the causes of poverty, discrimination and marginalisation, compelling its own social apostolate – Caritas – towards social action.

"Our faith in Jesus Christ," he said, "is what makes us different from the many international and local non-governmental organisations that have flooded the country and the world."

To mark the charity’s 50th anniversary, a website was created, linked to a Facebook page and a YouTube channel that will upload video-documentaries.

The charity’s new strategic plan for the 2018-2021 period was made public during the event.

Last but not least, the official jubilee song was presented. Written and composed of Fr Cecil Joy Perera in Sinhalese, it was translated into Tamil by Fr Eugene Francis.

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