02/07/2007, 00.00
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Over 1500 Marian devotees flock to Tewatte to ask for peace

by Melani Manel Perera
The faithful were marking the national feast of Independence at the famous shrine dedicated to Mary. “It is our duty to pray for the country and for true freedom” said the pilgrims. Catholic leaders urged them to “open their hearts so God may listen to our prayers”.

Tewatte (AsiaNews) – Devotees of Mary from across Sri Lanka celebrated the national feast of Independence on 4 February last at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka in Tewatte. More than 1500 pilgrims went to the Marian shrine where they prayed for peace in the country. Leaders of the Catholic community urged the faithful to “clean their hearts and minds to listen to the voice of God, only then will he be able to listen to us too”.

Five masses were celebrated in three different languages – Sinhalese, Tamil and English. The main function in the morning was presided over by Fr Placidus De Silva, the Director of the Aquinas College of Higher Studies and Fr Merl Shanthi Perera the Administrator of the shrine. In his homily, Fr De Silva asked a question to prompt reflection: “Why does our loving God not respond to our prayers for peace? Perhaps our faith is not as strong as that of our fathers? We must pray with unshakeable faith and open our hearts to the voice of God.” The priest added: “He will listen to us.”

 Among the faithful gathered at the shrine was Alexius de Silva, 68 years, a teacher from the diocese of Galle. He told AsiaNews: “I am happy to be in Tewatte with my relatives to offer prayers for peace and true freedom in Sri Lanka. I am sure Our Lady will soon hear our continued prayers.” Rita Kaluarachchi, 51 years, of Wattala parish, expressed the same conviction. She said: “I feel that it is our duty to pray for our country especially on the day when we remember Independence.” A Tamil believer, Anthony Ramalingam, said: “We should not lose hope in praying to Mary. But there needs to be more unity among the people.”

On 4 February, Sri Lanka marked the 59th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain. The most famous national Marian shrine is Madhu in the north, situated in territory currently controlled by the Tamil rebels. The basilica of Tewatte is also a national shrine: it was built in 1946 to thank Our Lady for sparing the island from the horrors of the Second World War.

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