Catholics begin rosary chain for peace on strife-torn Sri Lanka
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (UCAN) – Lay Catholics are conducting a chain of rosaries for the first 15 days of May to pray for a peaceful solution to ethnic strife and the cessation of all violence in Sri Lanka.
Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo prompted the initiative with a message to Catholics following a female suicide bomber's attempted assassination of the Sri Lankan army chief on April 25 in Colombo. Her attempt killed eight people and injured another 27, including the army chief.
The attack was blamed on ethnic Tamil rebels who fought for an independent homeland for the minority Tamil community from 1983 until they and the Sinhalese-led government signed a ceasefire in 2002. As many as 80,000 people were killed during the decades-long conflict.
Archbishop Gomis appealed to Catholics for prayers and great restraint in a front-page message in the April 30 issue of Messenger, the country's English-language Catholic weekly, published in Colombo.
"It is by patience and fervent prayer that terrorism can be defeated," the archbishop wrote. "Sri Lanka is facing a critical and perilous situation poised between a crumbling peace agreement and the resumption of civil war."
Catholics responded to the prelate's plea for prayer by committing themselves to a "chain" of rosary recitations May 1-15. Families and friends are contacting each other to fix times to recite the rosary at home. They aim for Catholics somewhere on the island to be reciting the rosary at all times.
"The Blessed Virgin is our hope," Glenice Fernando, one many Church workers promoting the lay initiative, explained to UCA News. "We will keep spreading the word about the importance of reciting the chain of rosaries nonstop till (the situation) is positively resolved."
Jean Perera added that "the power of the rosary has always motivated our local Catholics, and now this belief has grown stronger in the face of violence, which is once again destroying this land."
In many Catholic homes in Sri Lanka, the rosary is recited every day. But extra rosaries now are being said at times that family members or friends agree among themselves. The main intention of the rosary recitations is a permanent, peaceful resolution to the ethnic strife.
Besides the rosary being recited by families, rosary groups also have been formed for the 15-day period. The groups involve Catholics living close to one another taking a statue of the Blessed Mother from one house to another each day for a 6.30 p.m. rosary prayer meeting.
"This 15-day pledge to the Blessed Mother is an act of faith by devotees who have motivated many others," Father Benedict Joseph told UCA News. "Their unbroken recitation of the rosary" is being conducted in homes rather than in churches, he added. "The church fully supports the people's initiative for a special 15-day dedication to the blessed virgin for peace."
Fernando said the idea of a rosary chain stems from a tradition that attributes to the bmlessed mother's intercession a Christian victory over a superior Turkish fleet in the Battle of Lepanto on Oct. 7, 1571.
The blessed mother was invoked by Catholics praying the rosary. On that basis, Pope Pius V proclaimed Oct. 7 as Feast of Our Lady of Victory. In 1960, Pope John XXIII officially renamed it the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
May also is also traditionally dedicated to the blessed mother, with the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima falling on May 13. The shepherd children to whom Mary appeared in Fatima, Portugal, during World War I relayed her desire for people to pray the rosary for world peace.
R. Silva told UCA News that he and other lay Catholics are praying "for all parties to put aside negative political objectives and temptations of violence, thus enabling them to take a common stand to spell out a positive solution to the ethnic issue."
The 2002 ceasefire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam appears increasingly fragile due to mounting violence. Sri Lanka's military launched strikes on areas under the rebels' control in the north and east following the April 25 assassination attempt.
Tamils predominate in northern and much of eastern Sri Lanka. Sinhalese, who make up more than 70 percent of the population, are the majority elsewhere.
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