[ Fr.Sunil De Silva - 05.05.2014 ]

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference Sri Lanka, after concluding the Ad Limina visit, joined with the Sri Lankan migrants living in Italy, in their annual pilgrimage to Padua in Italy, on 04th May 2014.

The rally, organized for the 16th consecutive year by Rev. Mons. Neville Joe Perera, the national coordinator for the Sri Lankan Catholics living in Italy in collaboration with the chaplain priests involved in the mission.

This, in fact, was the second time since 2005 the function had such participation on the part of almost all the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The Catholic Church has always considered it a top priority to ensure the pastoral care of the migrant workers long before migration assumed the present proportions of a global phenomenon. Sri Lankans, who have migrated to Italy largely owing to economic pressures, who now amount to nearly 150, 000 of whom nearly 75 per cent are Catholics, have, from the beginning, received the attention of the Vatican and, in consultation with the Sri Lankan Bishops’ Conference, the Holy See has put in place the structures necessary to ensure the provisions to carry out the apostolate in the interest of the migrant worker who becomes a very vulnerable person on foreign soil, cut off from the roots of his culture and the support system of the family and language.

Addressing the rally in his homily His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said that the migrant worker, by no means, is a lesser person. Every human being has a dignity which does not ensue from the office he assumes on the social ladder. This claim for equality and the human dignity does not come from the UN declaration of the Human Rights, but from an unmistakable revelation of God in the Holy Bible which says that God made man and woman in His own image and likeness. God, becoming man under the protection of the human family attests to us this golden truth enshrined in the Christian scriptures. God, born man in a manger and brought up in a carpenter’s house and moving among the common masses having fishermen as his cohorts, showed us that the human dignity does not depend on upward social mobility as many men and women unfortunately think today.

Cardinal Ranjith insisted that the Sri Lankan migrant is not only a beneficiary at the receiving end of the Italian economy or the Italian landlord or the landlady, but a donor in the sense that, hailing from a rich cultural heritage enriched and ensured by the four World religions and the still more ancient patrimony of a lived hospitality to humanity, a Sri Lankan has as much to give as receive in a Europian capitalism. Speaking to the Italian faithful present in the congregation His Eminence reiterated that the Sri Lankans carry a hidden treasure within them when they have consented to serve them subserviently with a view to earning their livelihood under reduced circumstances owing to economic pressures at home.

His Lordship Bishop Thomas Saundranayagam, the bishop of Jaffna, addressing the faithful underscored the beauty of the life of a labourer who savours the fruit of his sweat, the fragrance of which is his right to claim his due. Both the Cardinal and the Bishop Saundranayagam who preached in the Holy Eucharist reminded the faithful of the great witness of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, the patron saint of the workers whose feast coincided with the May day celebrations worldwide that is supposed to champion the victory and the esteem of the human labour.

The festive High Mass presided over by His Eminence with eleven bishops and the chaplain priests was celebrated in thanksgiving to God for St. Anthony of Padua whose intercession the Sri Lankan devotees gratefully invoke in their times of trouble. Rev. Enzo Poiana, the archpriest of the basilica who has gifted the relics of St. Anthony and St. Sebastian to Sri Lanka recently, handed over to Mons. Neville Joe Perera another precious relic of St. Anthony to be housed in Mons. Perera’s parish church in Infernetto, Rome for the benefit of the Sri Lankans living in Rome.

His Lordships Bishops Harold Anthony Perera, bishop- in- charge of the Migrant Catholics overseas and the Bishop of Kurunegala, Vianney Fernando, bishop of Kandy, Winston Fernando, bishop of Badulla, Nobert Andradi, bishop of Annuradhapura, Valence Mendis, bishop of Chilaw, Cletus Perera, bishop of Ratnapura, Raymond Wickramasinghe, bishop of Galle, Emmanuel Fernando and Maxwel Silva, auxiliary bishops of Colombo concelebrated the Holy Mass. Hon. Benet Cooray, the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Italy participated on the occasion.

[ Rev. Fr. Deninton Subesinghe, Reporting from Rome ]