10/01/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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The shrine of Our Lady of Madhu will have 43 new statues, gift of the faithful of the South

by Melani Manel Perera
Made of fibre glass and almost two meters high the will be used for the 14 Stations of the Cross. The initiative promoted by Catholics of Jael, Weligampitiya, Wewala and Kandana. Over 200 km of journey of the statues, from Colombo to Madhu, was a long procession through towns and villages with the participation of Catholics and non Catholics.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The 43 statues for the 14 Stations of the Cross of the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, are due to arrive today October 1st.  They are a gift of the Christians of the south to the national shrine that is located in an area afflicted by war for years.

The idea to donate the statues for the Way of the Cross at the Shrine belongs to Jayalath Jayawardana, a doctor and Parliamentary member of the Jayalath Jayawardena. A member of the parish of Weligampitiya in Colombo, the noted politician involved Catholics in the project from the areas of Jaela, Weligampitiya, Wewala and Kandana.   Dr. Jayalath says: "I did what I could do to render the highest honour the Virgin Mary. Noting that the Via Crucis of the shrine of Madhu was in a terrible state , I decided that I must respond to this need of the church and the pilgrims. So I wrote to the Bishop of Mannar, I got his permission and his blessing for this great initiative".

The transportation of the 43 statues, made of fibre glass and six feet tall, was made possible thanks to the help of a well-known national company, the Demo, which donated 17 new vehicles for the trip. The more than 200 km from Colombo to Madhu became one long procession. The passage of the statues, displayed on vans, was welcomed with special prayers and signs of popular devotion along the road that connects the capital with the national shrine. Our Lady of Madhu, for over 400 years, has been a place of pilgrimage for the faithful around the country and only with the end of the war between the army and Tamil Tigers has once again become accessible to all.

On the morning of 28th September, the Archbishop of Colombo, Mgr. Malcolm Ranjith, blessed the 43 sculptures in the presence of government representatives, members of parliament, priests and Buddhist monks. The gift to the shrine of Madhu also touched the town of Ja-ela Sekkuwatte and Gonsalvez College Pamunugama on the 29th, St. Mary's Cathedral in the Diocese of Chilaw on 30th, and is now waiting at the destination after passing through Anuradhapura and Medawachchiya. All stops along the way were attended by large groups of believers of all ages and social backgrounds.

Fr. Gamini Silva, professor of theology at the National Seminary of Sri Lanka, participated in the procession of the statues at Gonsalvez College Pamunugama. He told AsiaNews: "This is an opportunity that offers a really nice example of the possible unity between the north and south of the country. The procession of the statues through villages and towns did not encounter any religious, political or ethnic obstacles”. Fr. Silva adds: "In Pamunugama people forced the procession to progress very slowly because everyone wanted to pay homage to the statues and show their love. It was a blessing for all citizens of Sri Lanka, not only for Catholics. "

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