New Katchatheevu church: Tamil fishers feel left out

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Madurai, November 30, 2016: A group of fishermen from Ramanathapuram met the district collector today seeking permission to attend the consecration of the newly constructed St. Antony’s Catholic church in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island administered by Sri Lanka.

They have not received an invite to the ceremony, which would be conducted on December 7, the fishermen said.

“We have not received any official invite from the Jaffna diocese. But our fishermen want to attend the ceremony as they feel attached to the shrine,” Verkodu parish priest Fr L Sagayaraj told TOI.

They are the descendants of Tamil fishermen, who built the old church on the island about 100 years ago.

Though ceded to Sri Lanka, the old shrine was built by their ancestors and they have right of worship there, said R Sahayam, a fishermen leader at Rameswaram.

“We have repeatedly represented to Indian government that Sri Lanka is building the church. We expressed our wish to be a part of the new church but our demand was ignored. Though the new church is ready to be consecrated, we have not been invited. It is not fair,” he said.

Demanding that they should be allowed to be a part of celebrations on December 7, fishermen leaders had submitted petitions to the state fisheries minister and officials. They also had faxed their demand to the Sri Lankan high commission in India.

“Even if we don’t get permission, we will make a point to attend the consecration ceremony,” Sahayam added.

The old church at Katchatheevu – an uninhibited island of 285 acres – is dedicated to St Antony, the patron-saint of seafarers. Around 4,000 pilgrims and fishermen from India used to visit the island for the annual festival after the civil war.

With their number increasing over the years, both Indian and Sri Lankan church authorities felt the need to have a bigger church. During the annual festival this year, Jaffna diocese represented the demand to the Sri Lankan navy seeking their assistance.

The Lankan navy came forward to help in construction and the foundation stone for the new church was laid by Rear Admiral Piyal De Silva in the presence of Jaffna vicar general, Fr Joseph Das Jebarathnam on May 9.

– times of india

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