Colombo (Fides Service) – Sinhalese seminarians in Colombo archdiocese will spend a period of their formation in dioceses in North Sri Lanka where the people are mainly Tamil, as part of a scheme to increase the pastoral awareness of the future priests and also promote reconciliation in a country which has just come out twenty years of civil war between the Sinhalese majority and minority Tamil rebels.
A cease-fire agreement which has held for more than a year now and talks underway between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE have restored hope in the hearts of the islanders for a lasting peace, despite a recently slow down in the talks. The civil war, which begun in 1983, took more than 65,000 lives and left at least one million displaced persons.
Now that the south-north roads are open again, auxiliary Bishop Marius Peiris told the seminarians of the Archdiocese of the plan to send them to the northern dioceses of Jaffna, Mannar and Trincomalee-Batticaloa for at least four months, to have a full understanding of the pastoral difficulties, particularly ethnic problems which surfaced during the war.
The Bishop recalls that Catholics in Sri Lanka (about 7% of the population) are Sinhalese and Tamil and that this means: “Catholics have an important role to play as builders of bridges of reconciliation among the ethnic groups, since the Church is recognised and appreciated all over the Island also for its work to promote and defend human rights”.
For their part the seminarians see this as an opportunity to improve their Tamil and to build better relationships with the local people. Candidates for the priesthood benefit from pastoral experience as well as studies in philosophy and theology. PA (Fides Service 5/5/2003 EM lines “* Words: 324)