Allow Sri Lankans to Velankanni shrine: Bishop

Lankan Catholics, whether Tamil or Sinhalese, are very much devoted to Annai Velankanni.

Sri Lanka
March 04 2013, 4:51 PM
Allow Sri Lankans to Velankanni shrine: Bishop

Sri Lankan bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam has said that pilgrims from his country should be allowed to pay a visit to the revered Velankanni Marian shrine in Tamil Nadu.

“Pilgrims should not be stopped at all,” said Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam of Jaffna while referring the incident last week when the Tamil Nadu police turned back 70 Lankan pilgrims fearing violence from Tamil Nationalist groups.

The prelate said that Lankan Catholics, whether Tamil or Sinhalese, are very much devoted to Our Lady of Health revered in the Velankanni shrine.

“They make vows to the Blessed Mother. They should not be prevented from fulfilling their vows,” he said.

Father Cyril Gamini, spokesman of the acting Bishop of Colombo, said that stopping pilgrims from going to a place of worship was an “undemocratic act and a violation of a human right”.

“One of the yardsticks for judging the state of democracy and human rights in a country is its freedom of worship for all communities,” he added.

“The Tamil Nadu government is responsible for giving protection to pilgrims. After all, pilgrims do not go to Tamil Nadu for any purpose other than worship at its shrines,” Fr Gamini said.

Asked if such incidents would prevent Lankans from visiting shrines in Tamil Nadu, he said, “the incidents have been sporadic. Our people have been going despite past incidents of violence and will continue to go.”

A group of 75 Sri Lankans were returned last week by the Indian government from a pilgrimage to south India due to protests from the locals.

About a year ago, a group of 184 people on a pilgrimage to Poornimatha Church in Thanjavur and Velankanni Shrine Basilica were also attacked by pro-Eelam groups.