With more than half a million Catholics expected to pack Galle Face Green for Pope Francis’ Holy Mass next Thursday, authorities have decided to admit devotees from the previous evening. Fifty workers from the navy were yesterday completing the main structures for the Mass at Galle Face, built in the style of Kandyan-era architecture, where [...]


With prayers for peaceful poll answered, Pope Francis will arrive to bless Lanka

Special arrangements made for multitude expected at Galle Face

With more than half a million Catholics expected to pack Galle Face Green for Pope Francis’ Holy Mass next Thursday, authorities have decided to admit devotees from the previous evening.

Fifty workers from the navy were yesterday completing the main structures for the Mass at Galle Face, built in the style of Kandyan-era architecture, where the Pope will canonise Fr. Joseph Vaz, the 17th-century Goan-born cleric who carried out most of his missionary work in Sri Lanka, mostly in the Kandyan region.

The papal visit will continue even though Thursday’s election result means that while ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa had invited Pope Francis to the island a different president, Maithripala Sirisena, would greet the pontiff when he arrives here.

The Director of the Media Information Centre for the papal visit, Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini, confirmed this, adding that as the Catholic Church had prayed these past few weeks, the presidential poll had been peaceful.

The stage on Galle Face Green is set; preparations are also underway at the Madhu church in Mannar and the newly-built Cultural Centre in Bolawalana which are on Holy Father’s schedule of visits.

On Thursday, January 14, the Holy Father will make his way to Galle Face by 7.30am. He will circle the perimeter in a popemobile, waving to the crowd, and will then alight and make his way along a pathway through the middle of the grounds.

The stage on Galle Face Green

The Mayor of Colombo, Mr. A.J.M. Muzammil, will present the Holy Father with the keys to the city.

At 8.30 a.m. the canonisation ceremony of Fr. Joseph Vaz is scheduled to take place. The rest of the service will proceed, ending at 11 a.m.
Following the service the Holy Father will make his exit from the back of the stage or, at his discretion, go around the grounds again in the popemobile.

A total of 143 enclosures, each holding about 1,250 people, have been constructed to accommodate devotees.

“There will be a special tent for all Goans from India because they have a right to be present at the canonisation since blessed Joesph Vaz is the patron saint of India. The rest of the areas will be made available to the people on a first-come, first-served basis,” the official in charge of ground preparations, Rev. Fr. Priyantha Silva said.

The public will be allowed to enter Galle Face from 5 p.m.onwards on January 13. There will be a preparatory prayer service at 6.30pm that evening. There will be also be a time of praise and worship for the people. Food, water, medical and sanitatary facilities will be provided.

one of the 14 ‘chapels’ that were installed on Friday at various locations. Pix by Susantha Liyanawatte

“All the parishes have been authorised to organise buses, and special passes will be issued for the buses. People wishing to come in private vehicles will also be issued passes. They can claim the pass from their respective parish priests,” Rev. Fr. Silva said.

“Special parking areas will be allocated by the police, who will guarantee security for the vehicles. People who come to the site even at the last moment will also be admitted.

“The army medical team is in charge of providing medical facilities in the vicinity. There will be three medical centres located near the Galle Face Hotel, the Bandaranaike memorial statue and the Taj Samudra Hotel. The Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance Service has also been invited,” Rev. Fr. Silva added.

There will not be any seating arrangements due to the lack of space but people will be allowed to bring a stool or a mat.

The stage will be draped in maroon, blue and white. There will be pictures of the Twelve Apostles and the rest of the stage will be decorated with other sacred art.

There will be 14 different chapels that will hold the Holy Eucharist that will be distributed during the mass. The chapels were installed on Friday at various locations on the grounds by the air force and the army.

Rev. Fr. Priyantha Silva supervising the arrangements on Galle Face Green

“When Pope John Paul II held the Eucharistic service in Sri Lanka 20 years ago, the Communion was distributed in 12 minutes. We are planning to do the same thing this time,” an official of the Catholic Church said.

“We have 1,300 Communion distributors. Since it will take a long time for the clergy to distribute the Host from the main altar we have pre-consecrated Hosts. These will be blessed at different masses. They will be placed in the Eucharistic chapels and the Communion will be distributed from there.”

Preparations are underway to greet the Holy Father upon his arrival at the Bandaranaike International airport on Tuesday (January 13).
An official of the Ministry of External Affairs said “a unique ceremony” was being organised to welcome the pontiff.

“The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church and he is also the head of state of the Vatican City. Therefore he will be welcomed at the airport by the newly-elected President. The Holy Father will make his way down from the plane and will walk amidst a large number of school children, who have been selected from several schools in the surrounding areas,” the official said.

Cultural dancers clad in their colourful attire will dance ahead of the Holy Father while the children will wave flags as he makes his way up the red carpet.

The Chief of Defence Staff will then lead the Pope on to a platform through a guard of honour. A 21-gun salute will also be fired to mark the visit, the Sunday Times learns.

Following this the Pope will make his way into the airport where a choir of 50 children will sing a welcome song. Following this, President Maithripala Sirisena will make a welcome address and the Pope will give a speech in reply.

“After signing the Golden Book the Holy Father would get into the open popemobile and travel along the Negombo-Colombo road where he will be greeted by people gathering along the roadside,” the ministry official said.

“The Pope will be provided with security, which will include officers from Sri Lanka as well as from the Vatican,” he added. The official said the Vatican had been anxious that the security arrangements give sufficient protection at public gatherings, and the ministry had made arrangements to comply.

The Holy Father is scheduled to meet the President at his official residence later in the day. At this meeting President Sirisena will hand over the official stamp and coin that would mark the 2015 papal visit to Sri Lanka. Following this, the Pope will meet 1,000 non-Christian leaders, including 700 Buddhist monks, the Hindu Kurukkal (150) and the Muslim Maulavi (150) at the BMICH.

The next day, Thursday, following the service at Galle Face, Pope Francis will fly to Madhu Church in Mannar where a 45-minute liturgical ceremony will take place, the Bishop of Mannar, Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph said. The Pope will then will fly back to Colombo.

The next morning (Friday, January 15) after departing from Colombo, His Holiness will visit and bless the Benedict XVI Cultural Institute in Negombo. He will continue to the Bandaranaike International Airport and take a flight to his next destination, the Philippines.

Joseph Vaz risked his life to help Sri Lankans“Blessed Joseph Vaz was not only a missionary, he was also a man with a vision, an organiser and an administrator all blended together,” said Rev. Fr Jayalath Balagalla of the National Secretariat for the Cause of Canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz.

Joesph Vaz was born in Goa, India in 1651. His holiness was displayed at a very young age; as a boy he used to spend much of his time in prayer or in church.

“He had no reason to come to Sri Lanka. He was not a Sri Lankan and he had no family or friends here. But when he learned of the oppression the Catholics faced in Sri Lanka at the hands of the Dutch he decided to come to the island,” Rev. Fr. Balagalla said.

“From that point onwards everything he did in India was done in preparation of his visit to Sri Lanka and to serve the country that he had long desired to help.”

Fr. Joseph Vaz came to Sri Lanka in 1686. He willingly risked his life to serve the people of Sri Lanka. A complete stranger to the island, he depended entirely on the providence of God to guide him.

During the dark hours of the night he visited Catholics in Mannar and Puttalam, offering them Communion. Soon after, he was taken prisoner by King Wimaladharmasuriya II on the assumption that he was a spy.

After holding him captive for almost two years the king finally realised Joseph Vaz was a holy man and not a spy and released him. Soon, Fr. Vaz was granted permission to carry out his mission both in and outside the city.

He visited Ruwanwella, Avissawella, Hanwella, Colombo Mutuwal, Negombo, Puttalam and Jaffna, searching for Catholics to whom he could minister.

“He made all his travels around the island on foot,” Rev. Fr. Balagalla said, adding that Fr. Vaz had travelled at least four times around the island on foot.

During his time in Sri Lanka, Joseph Vaz was well known for performing a miracle in Kandy. During a time of drought, upon the King’s request Fr. Vaz prayed for rain at a special altar. Soon the heavens opened, bringing rain to the entire city – but not a drop of water landed where Joseph Vaz was silently praying.

Some time after this, smallpox broke out in Kandy. The king, his nobles and other leaders fled the city but Joseph Vaz remained.
“Alone, he served the afflicted and managed to save nearly a hundred lives,” Rev. Fr. Balagalla said.

“Blessed Joseph Vaz taught Christianity in a way that fitted our culture. He had a vision and through his faith he converted many people into Catholicism.”

“Pope Francis had read much about Blessed Joseph Vaz and because of this he was convinced of his holiness and decided to canonise him, waiving the usual requirement of a second miracle,” Rev. Fr. Balagalla said.

The miracle that provided the basis for Fr. Joseph Vaz’s beatification occurred in Goa in 1938. A family there was told that their baby would be stillborn, or born disabled but the mother prayed for help, and a miracle worked through the intercession of the Blessed Joseph Vaz saw the child born healthy and live to become Rev. Fr. Cosme J. Costa, now professor at the Pilar Theological College in Goa.

Rev. Fr. Costa will be in Sri Lanka for the visit of Pope Francis.

Papal visit: More than 20,000 cops on duty 

Parking provided for public and private transport

A total of 23,000 police officers will be deployed for the Papal visit, Police spokesperson SSP Ajith Rohana said.

3,000 of these officers will be stationed at the Madhu Church in Mannar, while the rest of the officers will be in Colombo and Negombo, where the Holy Father will take part in programmes arranged for the following week.

A special parking plan has also been prepared for the convenience of the general public, the senior police officer told the Sunday Times. The plan is however still in the process of being finalised, the officer added.

According to the officer, a special bus service has been organised by the Catholic Church for devotees coming to Colombo. The buses have been allocated parking slots at five different places after they arrive in Colombo.

Buses coming into Colombo from route one, which is Kandy, will be able to park at Panchikawatte Road and Maligawatta Road, Colombo 10.
Route two comprises buses coming in from Galle. These buses will be allowed to park at Ward Place, Colombo 7.

Route three will comprise buses making their way into Colombo from Avissawella, Ratnapura, Homagama andMaharagama. These buses will be provided parking space at Reid Avenue, Colombo 4.

Buses coming in from Puttalam and Negombo on route four will be allocated parking space at Armour Street, Colombo 13.

Route five will comprise buses coming in from Kaduwela, Malabe and Borella and these buses will be allocated parking space at Maitland Crescent Colombo 7.

All other devotees coming to Colombo are encouraged to use public transport, SSP Ajith Rohana said.

He added that for those coming in private vehicles, special parking areas will be provided at Main Street and Malwatte Road in Pettah. Motor cycles will be provided parking space at D.R. WIjewardene Mawatha (McCallum Road) in Colombo 10.

“The Police will guarantee security for all these vehicles, but we also request that a driver be present in all cars or vans in case there is a need to move any vehicle,” SSP Rohana added.

Meanwhile a traffic plan is being formulated by the Police and will be made available tomorrow to the public, SSP Rohana said.


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.