SSPX News Archive
Lanka Church Sacked and Burned
Investigation Looking Into Extremist Groups
Lanka, JULY 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Sri Lankan Catholics are alarmed
after a church in the Diocese of Anuradhapura was sacked in broad
daylight and set on fire.
police investigations into the Saturday attack point to fanatic
Buddhist extremist groups, which are spreading intolerance and anti-Christian
sentiments throughout the island nation, said the Holy See's missionary
feelings spread, Parliament is due shortly to discuss two bills
which would ban religious conversions, thus increasing religious
Andradi of Anuradhapura confirmed the attack and destruction of
Holy Cross Church in the town of Pulasthigama.
is the first time a church in our diocese is attacked and we are
deeply shocked," the bishop said Wednesday. "People are
afraid and wonder what reason was behind the aggression."
"The attack happened in broad daylight. The only people in
the church at the time were two Catholic boys who had stopped to
say a prayer. Suddenly a group of hooded men broke into the church
and began to smash everything, including the altar and crucifix.
The two boys were badly beaten but managed to escape.
the criminals had completed their work of destruction, they set
fire to the building. Local Catholic families rushed to put out
the fire with water but it was too late. Charred ruins were all
that was left of the church."
Signs of solidarity
to the motive behind the attack, Bishop Andradi told Fides: "We
fail to understand the reason, except that of spreading anti-Christian
sentiments connected with the question of conversions. In other
parts of Sri Lanka, Protestant churches have been attacked, but
it is nearly always the Catholic community which suffers most from
added he had written letters of protest to the civil authorities.
He said that local Buddhist leaders who condemned the attack replied
with messages of solidarity.
Diocese has a population of 1.4 million, mainly Buddhists. There
are about 12,500 Catholics.
Once the capital
of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura is traditionally known as the place where
Buddha had "three illuminations," and is one of the most
important holy places for Buddhists in Southeast Asia.
Aid in Sri Lanka Has a Downside
Relocations Might Disrupt Fishing Communities
Lanka, JAN. 31, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A government plan for the post-tsunami
replacement of houses that were close to the coast might cause serious
difficulties for fishing communities and for the local Church, say
up the sector hardest-hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami that struck in
Asia and Africa.
In Sri Lanka,
the authorities' decision to remove the houses from the coast "has
caused protests because most fishermen are used to living right
by the sea," said Father Sunil de Silva, secretary of Colombo
Archbishop Oswald Gomis, according to AsiaNews.
and the opposition are protesting because such a restriction would
make fishermen helpless," said the priest.
restriction will weaken the position of the Church itself because,
"around one-third of fishermen are Catholics, and we are concerned
that Catholic communities will be dispersed if this rule is implemented,
and the strength of the Church would be diminished," explained
Father de Silva.
activists already have criticized the government's reconstruction
plans, saying that the proposals do not take into considerations
the needs of the people for whom they are intended.
Father de Silva
added that the authorities want to build four-story concrete blocks
but that "this is not what people want."
think the government is ignoring survivors' needs and wishes, but
it is time for it and the people to reach a consensus," he
said. However, "the government has yet to begin reconstruction.
People have been waiting and waiting, well aware it will take time
to build houses."
Church, meanwhile, continues with its rehabilitation projects. Houses
are being rebuilt or repaired and, in some areas, people have been
resettled. According to the secretary of Colombo's archbishop, the
top priorities are to help fishermen and to rebuild schools.
A month after
the tragedy, the spirit of solidarity shown by tsunami survivors
remains strong, regardless of their ethnic group or religion, and
the bulk of Church aid is going East where the need is greatest,
the priest said.
Lanka and other institutions of the Church have decided to establish
in each diocese of the affected areas a team of experts in charge
of coordinating the post-emergency plans.
In a statement
to ZENIT last Friday, Caritas explained that this is the way it
is responding to the request made to humanitarian organizations
of the Church by the president of the country's episcopal conference,
Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando, during a recent meeting in Colombo.
was attended by the local Caritas director, Damian Fernando; the
apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Mario Zenari; and experts of several
agencies of the Caritas international network.
At the meeting
it was learned that in Sri Lanka alone, the tsunami killed more
than 30,000 people and destroyed 80,000 houses and seriously damaged
another 40,000. About 5,500 people are listed as missing.
In Sri Lanka, It's Fishing Communities First
11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Priority aid in Sri Lanka is being given
to fishing communities in the wake of the deadly tsunami.
made by the diocesan Caritas of Galle, in the coastal belt between
Benota and Hambanthota, reveal that the damage is dramatic.
About 80% of
Sri Lanka's coastal fishing fleet, representing some 23,000 vessels,
was destroyed by the Dec. 26 tsunami.
that each one of them will need $2,000 to $6,500 to acquire a small
vessel and fishing equipment. Such aid would guarantee each family
a minimum subsistence income.
At the same
time, Caritas-Sri Lanka is implementing specific aid programs for
the replacement of the fishing fleet. Fishing communities are being
sheltered in churches in the affected areas.
also distributing school material to children, who returned to the
classroom Monday, and help-in-kind made available by private donors.
TSUNAMI WAS PRECEDED BY PROPHECY AND FOLLOWED BY REPORTS OF MIRACLES
In the gloom
-- and it is gloom -- come the accounts of miracles. A missionary
escaping the tsunami with thirty students calls out the Name of
Jesus as a wave sweeps into a lagoon and the wave seems to halt.
This in Navalady,
There is also
the young American couple at a beach in southern Thailand. Clinging
to a jungle gym under a thatched roof in a play area, the man shouted
prayers amid the flooding. The thatched roof lodged against the
jungle gym, and they were sheltered as the last, biggest wave swept
ten feet over their heads -- without touching them! "We miraculously
didn't get hit," said Patrick Green.
And then there
is the Marian apparition shrine of Vailankanni in India. It had
been established after a peasant boy saw the Blessed Mother there
in the 1500s. During the following century, a group of Portuguese
sailors got caught in a Bay of Bengal storm and pleaded with her
as Mary of the Sea. The sea calmed during what was probably a cyclone
and they landed at Vailankanni on September 8 -- feast of her nativity
-- replacing a chapel with a stone building.
recent tsunami, Mary calmed the seas there once more. In a December
29 statement, basilica officials noted that about 2,000 pilgrims
attending Mass were "miraculously saved" when the surging
waves of the historic tsunami stopped at the gates of the shrine
compound, which is near a devastated beach.
The waves --
rising as high as forty feet -- smashed hotels and homes on the
Sri Lanka Eyes Anti-Conversion Law
Lanka, JAN. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Sri Lanka hopes to introduce a
law that will limit conversions from one religion to another, the
country's Minister of Religious Affairs announced.
government will promote a legislative disposition directed to those
who use a variety of "incentives" to convince others to
change their religion.
than 7,000 Hindus, from the northeast and central provinces of Sri
Lanka, have converted to Christianity in the past 10 years,"
Minister of Religious Affairs Thiagarajah Maheswaran, a Hindu, told
the press during a visit to Madras, India.
added: "The conversions have grown in recent months, since
international humanitarian agencies committed to the reconstruction
of the country have begun to construct churches."
Sri Lanka has
been devastated by devastated by two decades of conflict between
the government and the rebel Tamil Tigers.
In recent days
the question of conversions has come to the fore again with the
death of a Buddhist monk who led the struggle against religious
conversions from Buddhism to Christianity, according to the Missionary
Service News Agency.
doctors, Venerable Gangodavila Soma Thera died in Russia in early
December following a heart attack. However, some Buddhists blame
Christians for his death, thus fueling the tensions between the
About 70% of
Sri Lanka's 20 million inhabitants are Buddhist; 15% are Hindu,
8% Christian (of the latter 6.7% is Catholic) and 7% Muslim.
Archbishop Pleads for Help in Flood-Stricken Sri Lanka
Lanka, MAY 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo
made an urgent appeal to the faithful of the island to aid Sri Lankan
populations stricken by the worst flooding in half a century.
About 265 people
died from the last week's floods and landslides that swept away
villages in the south and that hit low-lying tea estates and rice
fields, damaging tea factories and uprooting rubber trees.
appeal, published by Vatican Radio, said that food and drinking
water are needed, and that homes will have to be rebuilt when the
Gomis called on priests to involve the greatest possible number
of faithful in "this moment of need." Several parishes
have already responded by organizing the collection of building
other Catholic agencies have allocated $14,000 for the relief effort.
RESUME, OUR LADY OF MADHU IS A PILGRIM OF PEACE
(Fides) – Negotiations will resume and the Catholic Church on the
island, overjoyed, puts the peace process in the hands of Our Lady
of Madhu, loved by Sinhalese and Tamils alike. In the civil war
a new round of negotiations is about to begin. On December 12 the
government said it was ready to talk with the Tamil separatist guerillas.
The talks will focus on: a cessation of the hostilities and terrorist
killings, the resolution of the Tamil people’s problems and a speedy
solution to the problem of those displaced by war. Velupillai Prabhakaran,
leader of the Liberation Tigers Tamil Eelam (LTTE), asked for a
lifting of the embargo on rebel controlled areas, however the government
said it could be part of the talks but it would not take place before
any negotiations begin.
the meantime in the Vanni region, at the heart of the combat zone,
food and medicine are scarce, and many are dying of malaria and
other diseases. Catholic humanitarian workers say food is used as
a weapon by both sides; "The army uses it to push civilians
into government controlled areas, the rebels use it to recruit young
men and boys to fight."
Catholic Bishops voiced satisfaction that the government has accepted
to start a new round of peace talks with the LTTE and they say that
a solution to the conflict "must be within the framework of
the country’s territorial unity and integrity". In a statement
sent to Fides the Bishops say that "only through negotiation
can a just and lasting peace be achieved". They urge the parties
in conflict "to take steps to create a climate of mutual good
will and trust, though a de-escalation of offensive actions and
an easing off of the different forms of restrictions placed on the
people, because of the conflict." They call on everyone to
give spiritual support to peace initiatives and encourage Catholics
to pray more intensely for peace.
Bishops have entrusted the process of national reconciliation to
the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Madhu. For the first time
in 450 years of the history of the shrine of Madhu, the miraculous
statue is to be taken to the southern areas of Sri Lanka. The peace
pilgrimage, announced by Bishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary General
of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, is expected to take place in
March 2001. The greatly revered statue of Our Lady of Madhu will
be carried to the dioceses of Chilaw, Colombo, Kurunegala and Anuradhapura
to encourage prayers and activity for peace. Along the route several
solemn prayer services and peace rallies will be organized. A special
day of prayer will be held in Colombo with pilgrims from other areas.
Referring to the importance of bringing the miraculous Statue to
the southern areas, the Bishops’ statement said: "The Catholic
community has from time immemorial had a great devotion to Our Lady
of Madhu at whose shrine Sinhalese and Tamils have always prayed
in an atmosphere of oneness and brotherhood."
the Autumn of 1999 more than 10,000 refugees were camped for security
around the Shrine area, always regarded as a "de militarized
zone". But on November 20, 1999 the area was shelled: 44 persons
were killed, more than 60 injured in an attack for which each side
gave the other the blame. The LTTE wants an independent state for
the Tamil minority. In 17 years of civil war at least 60,000 people
have died. (22/12/2000)God bless.
DEFENSE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Father Fabrice Loschi, SSPX
article appeared in full in the Sri Lankan newspaper “The Island”,
on Wednesday, May 10th, 2000, p.18. It was prompted by
some accusations, which followed the Pope’s ‘act of forgiveness’
of March 12, 2000)
to the immensely popular "Island" newspaper, which I read
every day, I am privileged to be able to answer the many accusations
leveled against the Catholic Church, and, particularly to reply
to the article written by Mr. Aryatilake ("The Island"
of 26.04.2000) which deals with matters of the highest interest.
I appreciate Mr.Aryalake's contribution to what I think to be an
honest search for the truth. Indeed, manifestation of the truth
must be the only aim of our reading and writing.
Aryatilake invites us to read the book of John Cornwell, "Hitler's
Pope" on Pope Pius XII’s attitude during World War II. Mr.
Cornwell's book has been promoted by a massive international blitz.
It claims to tell "the secret history of Pius XII", and
to show that he went so far as to observe "silence" about
the genocide perpetrated against the Jews during World War II. Simultaneously
translated into many languages in several countries, this book is
not a historical work but is a weapon in the hands of those who
are attempting to block the beatification of Pope Pius XII, and,
the same time, to oblige the Church to repent yet again for its
so-called "silence" about the genocide of the Jews.
is true that this author cannot be reproached for not consulting
the archives of Pope Pius XII's pontificate (1939-1958). These are
still not open to researchers. However, on the subject which forms
the principle concern of the book, that is, Pope Pius XII's attitude
towards Nazi Germany, an exhaustive series of documents has been
available since 1965: "Acts and Documents of the Holy See during
the Second World War", in 12 volumes, published in French by
the Vatican. Cornwell knows of the existence of these documents
but scarcely uses them. Perhaps it was a lack of mastery of the
French language that led him to neglect this excellent primary source.
any case, by not exploring "Acts and Documents”, as he should
have, he passed by information essential to the question he examines.
He overlooks, for instance the letters addressed by Pope Pius XII
to the German bishops between 1939 and 1945. In these letters he
would have found what was the actual frame of mind of Pope Pies
XII, anxious to act in a manner that would protect the Jews while
still not aggravating the life and death situation faced by German
general, the historical affirmations of Cornwell are often questionable.
How can Cornwell, or anyone for that matter with a minimum of theological
and historical culture, assert as he does that "The ideology
of papal primacy, as we have known it within living memory, is an
invention of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries"?
The proof that Christ installed St. Peter head of his Church is
found in marry passages of the New Testament and in many writings
of the Fathers of the Church like St. Ignatius of Antioch who wrote
in the year 107 A. D. in his letter to the Roman Church that the
bishop of Rome is presiding over all the Churches. On the Cross,
Jesus Christ created a Church and after his resurrection gave her
the task of leading people to Heaven and appointed St. Peter as
her first Pope and whose present successor is Pope John Paul II.
Pierre Blais, S.J., the world-renowned historical scholar, co-editor
of "Acts and Documents", said of Cornwell's book,
"The announcement of an ‘exceptional book' that is
supposed to be based on ‘unedited documents' is an immense fraud
that it behooves us to expose".
levels the accusation of anti-Semitism against Pope Pius XII when
he was still Cardinal Pacelli, saying that he didn't willingly agree
with "Mit brennender sorge" (1937), the encyclical letter
by which Pope Pius XI condemned the Nazi doctrine. Cornwell wants
to make people believe that Cardinal Pacelli, then the Pope's
Secretary of State, had no choice but to play the part, so to speak,
at the request of the German bishops who had solicited the Pope's
intervention on the subject. Cornwell says: "Pacelli had no
choice but to involve the Holy Father". Where did Cornwell
find the trace of this reticence? He does not say, and he affirms
it without proof. On the contrary, everyone knows that Cardinal
Pacelli had a major role in drafting the encyclical letter.
does not say that the interventions by the nuncio in Germany to
facilitate the emigration of the Jews, and in other countries of
Europe (Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Croatia) to try and prevent
the deportations, were made with the approval of the Holy See, hence
of the Pope. The abundant correspondence exchanged proves it.
does not cite the declaration Pope Pius XII made before the Sacred
College of Cardinals (June 2, 1943), in which the Pope said that
he joined "the anxious supplications of all those who, by reason
of their nationality or their race, are overwhelmed by the greatest
trials and acute sufferings, and sometimes are even destined, without
their own fault, to extermination." This allocution is a fundamental
document for understanding the attitude of Pope Plus XII between
1939 and 1945. In it, he explained that his protest could not be
any stronger "because we must be careful not to harm those
who we want to save."
Dezza, who would later become the confessor of Pope Paul VI; told
of an audience he had with Pope Pius XII, when, during the war,
he was preaching a retreat at the Vatican:
had a long audience during which the Pope spoke to me about Nazi
atrocities in Germany and in other countries. He expressed his pain,
his anguish, because, he told me, "People are deploring the
Pope's silence, but the Pope cannot speak. If he spoke, it would
be worse." He told me that recently he had sent three letters
in which he deplored the Nazi's atrocities: one to the man he called
"the heroic Archbishop of Krakow," the future cardinal
Sapieha, and the others to two Polish bishops. 'They replied by
thanking me; " he said, "but by adding that they could,
not publish the letter because it would aggravate the situation.”
Conclusion, only one testimonial in favor of Pope Pius XII and his
actions in favor of the Jews will be cited here, although many more
could be. It comes from the Jewish historian Pinchas E. Lapide.
At the conclusion of his extensive research in the vast archives
of Jerusalem dedicated to the Holocaust, he published, in 1967,
a book called "The last three Popes and the Jews." He
claims that during the war, the Holy See did more for the Jews than
any other humanitarian organization, including the Red Cross. He
estimates that 860,000 were saved, directly or indirectly, by Pope
consider now the Inquisition.
is no precise date of the foundation of the Inquisition, but it
may safely be stated that it came into being during the first six
years of the pontificate of Pope Gregory IX (between 1227 and 1233).
Its origin is not found in Spain, but in France.
going further, let us remember that the true office of an historian
is not to judge facts and conditions, but to study and understand
them in their natural course and connection.
is difficult for the modem mind to understand why such an institution
had been created. We must remember that at that time, Religion and
State were closely united and in such a society, new religious beliefs
brought also political consequences. Many of the heresiarchs were
also disturbers of the social order. To condemn heretics was a religious
matter, but pertained also to the safeguarding of the country's
political stability in a world so easily troubled by violence and
wars. To be brief, let's consider only the example of the AIbigensians.
to the Albigensians, two eternal principles divided the universe.
The good had created the world of the spirits, and the bad the material
world. Man was at the junction of the two principles. He was a fallen
angel imprisoned in a body. The material world being intrinsically
bad, Albigensian ethics condemned all contact with matter. Marriage
and procreation were forbidden because one must not collaborate
in the work of Satan, who sought to keep souls imprisoned in their
bodies. Since death constituted a libation, suicide was encouraged.
They applied the withdrawal of nourishment, from the sick and even
from infants, to accelerate the return of the soul to heaven. The
Albigensians denied the State's right to wage war and to punish
established two classes of faithful: the “perfects” and the simple
believers. The first, few in number, were initiated, lived in monasteries
and conformed to the Albigensian moral philosophy. The second, the
vast majority, were freed of all moral obligations, in sexual matters
to be sure, but also in commercial ones. Debauchery, contraception,
suicide, brutal capitalism, an intense materialism and salvation
for all were the consequences of such a doctrine. This was a menace
not only for the Church, but was also leading to the destruction
of the common good of the society, as you can imagine.
the Spanish Inquisition that was created in 1478, few realize today
that Spain had just got over the effects of eight hundred years
of struggle against the Muslim occupying force, when she had to
face also the spectre of Protestantism and a subversive Jewish and
Muslim element that professed to be Catholic but which acted to
undermine the foundations of that very Catholic society.
not forget that the Inquisition only had jurisdiction over those
who professed to be Catholics but whose religious practices were
inconsistent with the true Faith. True Jews or true Muslims had
nothing to fear from her.
about torture? As one living in this century, I cannot accept and
justify torture. But when dealing with history, we must acknowledge
that this ugly practice was used by all the tribunals of that time.
In his book, "The Spanish Inquisition", Henry Kamen professor
from Yale University, who is likely to be a Protestant, wrote: "The
scene of sadism conjured up by popular writers on the Inquisition
have little basis in reality... A comparison with the cruelty and
mutilation common in secular tribunals shows the Inquisition in
a relatively favorable light This in conjunction with the usually
good level of prison conditions makes it clear that the tribunal
had little interest in cruelty and often attempted to temper justice
with mercy." Besides, torture was not widely used; between
5 to 10 percent of the cases were subject to it.
to affirm that millions of people died because of this tribunal
is complete nonsense. During the three centuries of the Spanish
Inquisition, considered as the most severe one, about 4000 people
have been put to death and not by the tribunal itself, but by the
State. We are far from the 12 million who died in Hitler's concentration
camps or the 100 million who died because of the Communist persecutions
within only 80 years of the twentieth century.
be honest we must also note the significant contribution made by
the Inquisition to the judicial systems in the countries in which
it operated, for instance, in forbidding the use of torture more
than once on the same person, and in introducing the hitherto unheard
of concept of a defense counsel, a lawyer who acted on the defendant's
now let's deal with the Crusades.
to the eighth century, all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean
Sea were Christians. And suddenly, some countries of Europe like
Spain, of the Middle East like Palestine, Turkey, Syria, and of
North Africa like Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt became Muslim
countries. How was it possible? By a miracle? Or was it because
the Muslims came with a lovely smile and bouquets of roses in their
hands and offered these to people to change their religion?
To speak only
of Palestine, the Muslim invasion during the eighth century and
the storming of Jerusalem disrupted the Christian life in the East
and made a journey to the Holy City almost impossible. Fortunately,
and thanks to his tremendous prestige, Emperor Charlemagne (crowned
in 800) was able to come to an agreement with the Sultan of Baghdad,
who allowed free access to the holy places to the pilgrims who were
placed under the protection of the great emperor. .
1009, the situation changed suddenly with the sack of Jerusalem
by the Turks. Christians were massacred and the church of the Holy
Sepulchre built by Emperor Constantine was pulled down. Then began
a severe Muslim military occupation over the City.
the new situation, some pilgrimages to the Holy Land kept on going,
organized at a high cost in gold or under heavy armed protection
which proved itself sometimes insufficient, for many pilgrims were
ill-treated, kidnapped or killed. Pope Urban II was very much concerned
about the news coming from the Holy Land reporting the ill treatment
suffered by the pilgrims there.
1095, while attending the Council of Placenza, a few envoys sent
by Emperor Alexis Comnenos of Constantinople came to him carrying
an imploring request regarding the Turkish menace. An urgent reinforcement
coming from the West needed, by the Emperor, motivated Pope Urban
II to take action. In order to study the possibility of a military
operation, he went to France to visit o good number of nobles and
religious, listening to their advice and asking for their support.
He met especially during the 15th August pilgrimage in Le Puy, the
bishop of this city, Adhemar of Monteil who fully agreed with the
plans of the Pope. During this meeting, Pope Urban II decided on
the calling of a Council in Clermont, in the following month
the end of the Council the Pope rose to preach to the huge crowds
of Lords, knights and men of the common people and exhorted them
to up the defense of their helpless brothers suffering in the East.
Crusades were an enterprise of self-defense for Christendom against
the danger of Turkish invasion. It was not set up as a holy war
to convert people by force, which is contrary to the Catholic teaching
unlike the Muslim Jihad. If some atrocities had been committed,
it was the sad and inevitable result of any kind of war, and is
highly regrettable. But the atrocities, as proved by historica1
researches, came from both sides. So, why must we put the blame
only on the Church? When a non-Catholic commits a crime, often one
says: “a man killed another man”. When a Catholic commits the same
crime, must we say: "Catholicism .is very bad?" What an
amazing way of practicing justice and of writing history.
conclude, I must now do justice to all the Saints and Martyrs who
died for Christ since the beginning of the Church. It is not true
to say that Christianity has been spread by force and violence.
For instance, if Europe became a Catholic continent, it was because
of the martyrdom of hundreds of thousands men and women who were
put to death during the bloody persecutions of the Roman Emperors,
especially Nero, Trajan, Decius and Diocletian. Martyrs like St.
Sebastian, or St. Lawrence so well venerated by the Catholic Sri
Lankans. Also Martyrs like St. Ignatius of Antioch of whom I spoke
above. When the Emperor Trajan, who offered to make St. Ignatius
a priest of Jupiter and a member of the Senate if he would but sacrifice
to the Gods, punished his refusal by the sentence of death, the
Saint said in a prayer: "I thank Thee, O Lord, because that
Thou hast vouchsafed to make me worthy of giving Thee a proof of
my love by sacrificing my life for Thy faith; I desire, O Lord,
that the beasts may hasten to devour me, that I may make to Thee
the sacrifice of myself." As long as there are Catholics ready
to die for their faith, like in today's Sudan or Indonesia, the
Church will continue to carry her message all over the world, for
the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.
December 17th/24th1999-No 4177– NE 699
LANKA – a lacerated island in search of peace
brought forward, civil war rages, Bishops call for an end to violence
(Fides) – President
Chandrika Kumaratunga, leader of the People’s Alliance party., called
for presidential elections to be held on December 21st,
a year earlier than scheduled.
elections come at a time of ferocious civil war. In early November
separatist movement Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE) launched
an ‘unending wave’ aiming to re-conquer a large region north of
Vanni and inflicting heavy losses on the regular army which – observers
say – is crumbling: 10 military bases lost, more than 100 military
dead, and 50,000 deserters. Attacks intensified after the announcement
of early elections.
LTTE has taken the north western base of Thallady, which connects
Sri Lanka’s mainland to the little islet of Mannar, a strategic
centre, and they aim to take the Mannar – Vavuniya-Kilinnochchi
highway, used by the government army to supply food and ammunition
to troops at the Jaffna stronghold, the last still held by the army.
With another ferocious attack the LTTE took the town of Tirukketisvaram
and the village around the Madhu shrine.
1997 and 1998 the army had taken back much territory, opening a
corridor to the north. But since the beginning of 1999 the rebels
regained much territory including several towns in Vanni.
a December 6th joint statement the Catholic Bishops of
Sri Lanka and the Conference of Major Superiors in Sri Lanka, called
for a cease-fire before, during and after the elections, encouraging
the people to vote. "Voting is a sacred duty – they wrote –
not to vote means to shirk a serious responsibility". They
called on candidates in the elections to "avoid all forms of
coercion, irregularity, manipulation and violence" encouraging
them to accept peacefully the results of the poll.
statement said Catholics should be in the front line to promote
mutual respect and harmony among the parties and their supporters.
They also invited them to pray for elections without violence and
for peace in Sri Lanka: "Let us ask, Jesus Prince of Peace
and Mary, Our Lady of Lanka, to reconcile the country".
say the President called early elections to strengthen her position
before parliamentary elections (scheduled for August 2000). But
her strategy is not without risk. The major opposition group, United
National Party, led by former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
has based its electoral campaign on the President’s failings: failure
to achieve peace; failure to make any economic or social progress.
In 1999 economic growth fell to 4% compared to 4.7% in 1998. Inflation
is 7% and exports of tea, Sri Lanka’s main product, have dropped
the moderate party Tamil United Front has decided to stand
as an independent force, withdrawing the support given to the government
coalition in 1994. The leader, Joseph Parajasingham, reproves the
President for failing to satisfy the Tamils’ requests for a radical
de-centralisation of power in favour of provincial councils. (17/12/1999)
Both sides guilty of massacres,
common graves and disappearances
(Fides) – Sri
Lanka is second in the world, after Iraq, for the number of disappeared
people: this is one of the most serious tragedies of this civil
war. According to a United Nations survey since 1982 at least 12
thousand people have disappeared after being arrested by the security
forces. The government itself puts the figure at 17,000.
disappearances, in September common graves were discovered around
Chemmani village , near Jaffna. Observers say the bodies are those
of young Tamil who have disappeared since 1995. About a hundred
bodies lie in the Chemmani graves but it is feared there may be
many others in graves elsewhere in the region.
International blames the government
for the disappearance of at latest 540 Tamils, missing since June
1995. In 1998 a soldier on trial told a Colombo Court that some
400 Tamil had been killed and buried in Chemmani. The human rights
organisation also reports a more recent case of torture of three
Tamil charged with murdering moderate Tamil leader Neelan Tiruchelvam
in July this year (see Fides July 27th 1999).
In a letter to the President of Sri Lanka Amnesty International
says the three men were tortured while detained at the police
headquarters in Colombo.
are reports of violation of human rights also on the part of Tamil
rebels. On September 18th in the Amparai district, one
of the most recent episodes, LTTE rebels massacred in retaliation,
48 civilians including 17 women and children, hacking them to pieces
with knives and daggers. Since the beginning of the war the LTTE
have killed the inhabitants of numerous Sinhalese villages, and
they are known to have carried out ethnic cleansing in the Jaffna
area in 1990.
fighters are famous for ruthless suicide attacks. Men, women and
children padded with explosive throw themselves at human targets.
This happened to Indian leader Rajiv Gandhi (1991 when he made an
agreement with the Colombo government); to the President of Sri
Lanka Ranasinghe Premadasa (1993); to Tamil member of parliament
Neel Tiruchelvan (July 29th 1999), who favoured a peaceful
solution to the war (see Fides August 13th 1999);
most of the leaders of the moderate Tamil United Liberation Front.
LANKA – Notes
Ethnic groups and religions have always struggled for supremacy
Sri Lanka the population comprises different ethnic groups and religions.
The largest ethnic group are the Sinhalese, about 79%. The Tamil
minority amounts to about 12,7% mainly concentrated in the north
eastern part of the Island. Then there are 17% Moors of Arab and
Malaysian origin. 71% of the population is Buddhist, a group which
animated anti-colonialist nationalism. Today Buddhism is the state
religion. A Hindu minority 15% is mainly Tamil. Besides this there
are Muslims, 7%, and Christians mainly Catholics about 7%.
reached the island in 300 BC. The Tamils invaded Sri Lanka in 2000
AD. After a period of dominion they were pushed back to the northern
part of the territory. Arab merchants brought the Moslem religion
to Ceylon between the 10th and 14th century.
first Westerners to arrive were the Portuguese in 1505, with Jesuit
missionaries who were followed by the first Franciscan missionaries
in 1517. Dutch colonisers, arriving in 1656, replace the Portuguese
and begin violent persecution of Catholics. In 1796 the British
occupy the island, repealing the anti-Catholic laws in 1806. There
is another massive immigration of Tamils from southern India to
work in the tea plantations. The country obtains independence in
1948. Three years later the Sri Lanka Freedom Part, nationalist,
pro-Buddhist, which goes to government in 1956.
marks a political turning point. Ultra-nationalists grow in numbers,
Christians, particularly the Europeans, are looked on with suspicion.
Much emphasis is given to Buddhist culture and customs. The nationalist
government led by Solomon Bandaranake, triggers the first ethnic
disputes which lead Tamils to feel they are not accepted as an integral
part of the country. Consequent conflict with the Tamil minority
results in the first masse violence in 1958. Many observers say
this period dug a deep trench between Tamil and Sinhalese which
has never been filled.
1959 Bandaranake is assassinated and his wife Sirimavo takes his
place a year later (the first woman prime minister) and remained
there until 1965. Her nationalist government adopts an economy aiming
at protection. Catholic schools and hospitals are nationalised,
many nuns are forced to stop working in public hospitals.
1972, on the wave of nationalism, the institutional aspect of the
state is modified. The Upper House is abolished leaving only the
Lower House. The Island changes its name from Ceylon to Republic
of Sri Lanka, with Sinhalese as the official language and Buddhism
as the official religion. In 1976 the Tamils found a moderate party,
the Tamil United Liberation Front.
acts of violence led in the end in 1983 to the outbreak of civil
war, after the Tamil had killed 13 army soldiers. All over the country
the Tamil are targeted by the Sinhalese and the flee one masse to
the north. The armed groups of Tamil form the Liberation Tamil
Tigers Eelam (LTTE) and claim an independent state. The civil
war has deleterious effects on tourism and economy, based on the
export of tea and rubber.
1987 Sri Lanka and India agree, with LTTE consent, that India should
send a peace force of 45,000 men. Two years later the agreement
is abrogated and civil war resumes.
Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga, elected in 1994 and still in office,
attempts to reduce tension, setting up commissions respectively
to protect human rights and to enquire into the disappearances.
She is convinced that the war is waged only by extremist groups
and that most of the Tamil do not want the war. But in the meantime,
violence continues and cease-fire agreements are repeatedly broken.
(M. A.) (17/12/1999)
Madhu Shrine stands as a sign of hope amidst the fury of war
Marian shrine has always been regarded as a holy place by all Sri
Lankans, not only Catholics. But civil war has not spared the Islanders’
sacred place which stands now in the middle of a battle ground.
There have been victims even among the thousands of civilian refugees:
on November 20th a bomb attacked killed 44 and wounded
more than 60 of those seeking shelter within Madhu boundaries (see
Fides November 26th 1999). The army and rebels
blamed each other reciprocally for the episode. The Catholic Bishops
called for Madhu to be a de-militarised zone with guaranteed security
for pilgrims as well as at least 15,000 refugees. The Church also
urged the government to provide assistance for the displaced thousands
in need of plastic sheeting and food as the monsoon season approaches.
(see Fides December 12th 1999).
is since 1990 that Madhu shrine has housed fleeing thousands, with
the tacit consent of the warring parties. The LTTE fighters who
used to control the surrounding area, remained outside the shrine;
but the army, which took control last March, actually entered the
holy ground, causing indignant protests on the part of Bishop Joseph
Rayappu of Mannar. He appealed to the President who ordered the
army to withdraw. (see Fides April 4th 1999).
shrine has a history of more than four centuries. In 1544 Sankili,
King of Jaffna, fearing the spread of Western influence, ordered
the massacre of 600 Christians of Mannar who had been converted
by chaplains travelling with Portuguese traders, the first of whom
landed on the island of Ceylon in 1505. Some Catholics who survived
built a small forest chapel in which they placed a statue of Our
Lady, the same statue venerated at Madhu shrine today. Later, in
1583, Christians fleeing again from Mannar, built places of worship
elsewhere, including a church at Mantai and this was Our Lady of
Madhu’s first "home".
the Dutch arrived in Ceylon in 1656 they began to persecute the
local Catholics. In 1670 thirty Catholic families, carrying with
them the statue of Our Lady, sought refuge at a place called Maruthamadhu,
the site of Madhu shrine today. Among other Catholics who escaped
Dutch persecution and reached safety in the same place was a Portuguese
woman named Helena, later responsible for the building of the first
little Church dedicated to Our Lady of Madhu.
Our Lady of Madhu was known all over Sri Lanka as Protectress and
powerful healer from poisonous snake bites. With the arrival in
Sri Lanka of Fr Joseph Vaz, in 1687, there was a new flourishing
of Catholicism and in 1706 Madhu was already known as a missionary
centre. The present church building was begun by Mgr Bonjean who
laid the foundation stone in 1872. The papal legate crowned the
statue in the name of Pope Pius XI in 1924. The church building
was consecrated in 1944. (M.A). (17/12/1999)
Area;65,610 sq km; population;18,100,000 (growth 1.2%); languages;
Sinhalese, Tamil, English religions;
Buddhist 61%, Hindu 22%, Christian and Muslim minorities; capital;
Colombo; government; republic; economy; gross prod: US$
13,475 million; annual growth: 4 %; (1998) 4.7% inflation: 7%; foreign
debt: US$ 8,230 million (1998) ; income per capita: US$ 740; trading
partners: U.S., Asia, U. E., Japan
CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SRI LANKA
1,238,000 ; Dioceses11; Parishes 1121; Bishops 15;
Priests 876 (568diocesan 308 religious); Brothers 246;
Sisters 2,237; Seminarians 394; Catechists 9,240
evangelization began in 1543 and made great progress by the middle
of the 17th century. The Church was seriously hampered
during the Dutch period from about 1650 to 1795. Anti-Catholic laws
were repealed by the British in 1860. The hierarchy was established
in 1886. Leftist governments and other factors have worked against
the Church since the country became independent in 1948. The high
percentage of indigenous clergy and
religious has been of great advantage to the Church. Challenges:
reconciliation between Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups; interreligious
dialogue with Buddhism. (17/12/1999)
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