Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, and Fr. Edmond Tillakaratne and Rev. Fr. Anthony Fernandopulle, Secretary of the National St. Joseph Vaz Secretariat at the media briefing to announce the year of St Joseph Vaz
Pix by Pradeep Pathirana
The Catholic church has declared 2017 ‘The year of St Joseph Vaz’ and hopes to discover further details about Sri Lanka’s great apostle’s life as well as the places he visited. There will also be a special focus on poverty alleviation and the spreading of harmony among different religions and racial groups- virtues St Joseph Vaz brought to Sri Lanka.
The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told a media conference “We know that he came to Sri Lanka in 1687 and died in January 1711. However, our intention is to reveal more information about his courageous work towards Sri Lanka’s Catholics and the world.”
The Cardinal added that St Joseph Vaz’s burial place was yet to be discovered.
It was revealed that the saint had gifted a cross to a family at Sillale in Jaffna and that the family’s descendants still had this cross. Another such cross has been found at the Mahagalgamuwa Church in Kurunegala.
The St Joseph Vaz year will be inaugurated today at a special service to be held at 6 p.m. at St. Lucia’s Cathedral in Kotahena and will be presided over by the Cardinal. St Joseph Vaz’s cloak will be taken to St Anthony’s Church, Kochikade for public veneration this morning. From there, it will be taken to St Lucia’s cathedral at 4.30 p.m. today. Tomorrow (15), every parish will conduct special observances to mark the year of St Joseph Vaz. Catholic schools will mark the event on January 16.
In Jaffna, the celebrations will be held on Monday at the Kondadi Shrine of St. Joseph Vaz. The ceremony will be presided over by the Bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev. Dr. Justin Bernard Gnanapragasam.
The ceremony in Mannar will be held at the Church of St. Joseph Vaz at Madhukarai on January 16.
In Chilaw, the ceremony will be held at the St. Joseph Vaz Shrine, Wattakkalliya on January 22. It will be presided over by Chilaw’s Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Valence Mendis.
In Kandy, the year will be inaugurated tomorrow at the St. Joseph Vaz Shrine at the National Seminary, Ampitiya. It will be presided over by Kandy’s Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Vianney Fernando. In Galle the event will be held tomorrow at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Holy Rosary. It will be presided over by Galle’s Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Raymond Wickramasinghe. In the Trincomalee diocese all parishes will celebrate the event tomorrow while it will take place in the the Anuradhapura diocese at St. Joseph Vaz Church, Pemadura on January 22. In Rantapura, the ceremony will be held at the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul’s Cathedral on January 22, presided over by the Bishop of Ratnapura Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus Perera. In Batticaloa, the opening ceremony will be held at the Church of St. Joseph Vaz at Thannamunei tomorrow.
According to the cardinal, another feature of the St Joseph Vaz year will be the focus on restoring the dignity of impoverished and marginalised people. Accordingly, a free morning meal is to be distributed to children in schools located near parish churches.
Pilgrimages will also be arranged to Goa, the birthplace of St Joseph Vaz.
Another highlight will be a new vision by the church to promote reconciliation. “St. Joseph Vaz set a tremendous example for reconciliation by learning both Tamil and Sinhala, the local languages in Sri Lanka. He not only spoke both languages but lived peacefully with people belonging to both ethnic groups,” Cardinal Ranjith said.
“Following in the footsteps of St Joseph Vaz, we should live peacefully with people belonging to other ethnic groups. We hope that those who belong to other religious and ethnic groups will also cooperate with us in bringing about reconciliation,” he added.