RAMESWARAM: A spirit of forget and forgive, to foster reconciliation and bonhomie between the Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka marked the two-day annual thanks-giving festival by fishermen and others from both countries at the St Antony’s church in Katchatheevu islet in Palk straits on Saturday.
While 1,950 fishermen-pilgrims from Rameswaram and nearby coastal hamlets in Tamil Nadu participated in the festival, nearly 5,250 pilgrims came for the festival from the Sri Lankan side this year.
Holding of a special mass, in both Tamil and Sinhalese at 6-45 am today was the high-point of the festival, after which the pilgrims from both the countries took leave of each other and set homeward from 10 am, sources here told DC.
For the first time, Fr Raymond Vickremasinghe, Bishop of the predominantly Sinhalese Galle district diocese participated in the Katchatheevu church festival, which began on Friday evening with flag-hoisting, offerings and special prayers by the visiting pilgrims to the Lord.
In a significant address today, Fr Vickremasinghe said he expressed deep regrets for “all the sufferings, distress and destructions that took place on Sri Lankan soil.” “From now on, let us not show any discrimination/differences on the basis of race or language. We shall all stand united in praying merrily to the Lord,” the Galle district diocese head said in a moving speech.
Even as the islet wore a peaceful, festive look on both days with fishermen from both countries relaxing in the make-shift beach-side huts and exchanging notes with a sense of nostalgia, a variety of things and eatables were sold by vendors to the pilgrims' delight. The prayers were led by the Jaffna district diocese Bishop Justin Fernando Gnanaprakasam.
Important visitors to Katchatheevu for the festival included Sri Lankan minister, Vijayakala, Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Jaffna, Mr Natarajan, Sri Lankan Navy chief Vijaya Gunarathne and other government officers, and Ramanathapuram district judge, Dr Malarvizhi.