13th July 1997


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No Talawila feast if gazette notice is not cancelled

By Shelani de Silva

Minister of Plan Implementation and Parliamentary Affairs Jeyaraj Fernandopulle has assured the Catholic Church of getting the Gazette notification declaring the Talawila shrine as a trade fair, cancelled. This declaration led the Church to cancel the annual St Anne’s Talawila feast leading to a major controversy between the church and the government.

Mr. Fernandopulle stepped in to defuse the tension by requesting President Chandrika Kumaratunga to cancel the notification. The controversy started last week when the Kalpitiya Pradeshiya Sabha gazetted the entire Talawila shrine as a trade fair without the consent of the Church. Bishop of Chilaw Rt. Rev. Frank Marcus Fernando along with the incumbent priest decided not to hold the annual feast of St. Anne at Talawila if the gazette notification is not cancelled.

Minister Fernandopulle in an attempt to settle the controversial issue called for an urgent meeting with the relevant parties.

Though no decision was reached the minister assured the church of informing the President and getting the gazette notification cancelled. The Bishop told ‘The Sunday Times’ that the Catholic Church would stand firm on the decision of not having the feast this year if the government refuses to cancel the notification. “An assurance was given by the minister and we will wait and see as to the outcome. This is the first time to my knowledge that we have had to cancel the feast, on such an issue”, explained the Bishop.

According to the Bishop at present the church is spending large sums of money in conducting the feast and attending to the welfare of the pilgrims. “Unfortunately the Pradeshiya Sabha considers St. Anne’s shrine as merely a readymade source of income. This is the kind of political interference that the shrine administrators have to face”.

“It is not possible to run a Catholic shrine under such conditions. World renowned shrines like Lourdes and Fatima and even Sri Maha Bodhi has never witnessed this kind of intolerance”, explained the Bishop. According to the Catholic Church the feast draws more than two lakhs of pilgrims annually. However the Bishop said that they were informing the public of the decision. “We will explain in detail why we are not having the feast”, he said.

‘Talk to LTTE’

A Catholic Organisation called the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Sri Lanka has called on the government to invite the LTTE to the negotiation table and propose to it the government’s peace proposals.

The organisation consisting of forty congregations from the Catholic Church brought this issue during one of its annual meetings. The decision was taken due to the current militaryoperation, ‘Jaya Sikuru’.

The statement adds that the collateral damage to the civilian population is immense. The organisation has stated that it is not competent in matters of strategy and tactics from the military angle, but requests the government for a truce since both sides have been weakened by the ongoing conflict.

Fr. Dalston Forbes, Executive Secretary of the CMRS said that at the conference the religious groups from Mannar and Vavuniya expressed the problems faced by them.

Double check on security checks

By Christopher Kamalendran

The Defence Ministry has ordered military and police officers to act in a humane manner when taking in any suspects during current cordon-and-search operations in Colombo and other areas.

The orders were given by Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte following a spate of complaints by Tamil parties and civilians that suspects were being harassed or intimidated, and that money was being extorted for their release.

A senior police officer in every station is to be appointed to handle cases of these suspects and expedite matters, while a committee comprising representatives of all political parties will co-ordinate procedures. But by Friday night, none of the Tamil parties had appointed any representative.

Tamil parties had complained that the main victims of the alleged harassment during security operations were domestic aides under the age of 16.

General Ratwatte has now directed that security officers should refer such cases to the Grama Niladhari officers of the areas.

Sampanthan for Trinco

General Secretary of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), R. Sampanthan is tipped to fill the parliamentary vacancy following the death of Arunasalam Thangathurai, who was slain in Trinco town early this month.

At the August 1994 election Mr, Sampanthan came second in the TULF’s list for the Trincomalee district securing 19,525 votes.

Anuruddha 59 today

Minister of Power and Energy and Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte celebrates his brithday today. He is 59.

The Sunday Times wihes him many happy returns of the day.

Hands off water supplies, Magistrate tells Koreans

By Shyamal A. Collure

Kaduwela Magistrate, Pearl Karaliyedda on Friday issued an interim order in an ex-parte application filed against the Ceylon Heavy Industries & Construction Company Limited, the Korean successor to the Ceylon Steel Corporation, directing the respondent company not to interfere with the possession and to restore immediately the disconnected supplies of water and electricity to its official quarters occupied by former employees who retired with compensation.

The convenor of the People’s Movement for the Protection of the Steel Corporation, Somaweera Chandrasiri said that 17 such quarters were still occupied by the ex-employees. ‘’These residents have been threatened orally as well as in writing to vacate the quarters forthwith, saying that they would have to pay a fine of Rs. 500 per day in the event of their failure to do so,’’ he said.

The ex-employees in protest, complained to the Athurugiriya Police last month stating that this was a clear violation of their Fundamental Rights as rent had been deducted for a period of 10 months ending in December this year when they were paid their commuted pensions on March 6.

They also pointed out that they were still shareholders and a case was pending in the Supreme Court challenging the selling of the Steel Corporation.

Fr.Balasuriya’s excommunication invalid, says Belgian Canonist

By Noel Crusz

Belgian Canonist Fr. Stefan Gigacz has released a document that has stunned the Vatican and the Catholic world. This may provide a breakthrough in the crisis over the excommunication of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya. He finds that Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) have acted invalidly and even involved Pope John Paul in what may be the ‘error of the century.’

In the light of media sources in Rome alerting me to Fr. Gigacz’s findings, I met Fr. Balasuriya OMI at the Centre for Society and Religion in Colombo. Researchers from Belgium and Asian universities were awaiting interviews, television cre-ws from Germany and Italy were on schedule.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s news conference on January 24, 1997 announcing the possibility of reconciliation was followed by promoting intermediaries to seek a mediated solution in April 1997. The Oblate Superior General sent Fr. Lucien Schmitt in June to finalise a dialogue. Pope John Paul and the Vatican were at the receiving end of worldwide protests. Fr. Schmitt’s mission stalled owing to unacceptable demands from Cardinal Ratzinger.

Fr. Cigacz has now put the Vatican into an embarrassing situation. The reputed Canonist made a detailed investigation of the whole process which led to Fr. Balasuriya’s excommunication. He says: “The CDF has failed to abide by Canon 1342-01 requirement for a judicial procedure, in the absence of just causes precluding a judicial procedure.’’

He stresses’’ this failure involves the invalidity of the declaration of excommunication against Fr.Balasuriya.’’ The Canonist further points out that approval even in specific form by Pope John Paul of an invalid decision or act does nothing to validate it.

Fr.Balasuriya had originally appealed to the Vatican’s highest court the Signatura and he was even given the list of Canon lawyers, whom he could summon. But this was suddenly called off by the Vatican due to unusual pressure both from Cardinal Ratzinger and a section of the local hierarchy.

“Fr.Stefan Gigacz has vindicated my stand’,’ said Fr. Balsuriya. His impartial inquiry has shown the futility of Cardinal Ratzinger’s campaign. The Pope’s decision is Canonically invalid.

The Belgian Canonist feels that a juridical review is possible either for the Signatura with a mandate from the Pontiff under Canon 1404-2, or alternately for the Pope acting, personally or through his delegated judges under Canon 1442.

This is the watershed that Pope John Paul has to face now due to the bungling of Canonical procedure, not only by Cardinal Ratzinger, but also by Cardinal Sod-ano, the Vatican Secretary of State. It is surprising that Cardinal Sodano an executive officer should deem it necessary to recall to the Signatura, a juridical organ, what its role is!

Fr.Stefan Gigacz insisted that’’ the continued existence of this situation, even apart from the question of damage to Fr.Balasuriya’s good reputation is a matter of scandal to the faithful.’’ He added.’’ It also gravely damages the Church’s reputation and serves to weaken the Church’s legitimacy as a voice for the truth.’’

The Canonist has informed the Vatican that’’ having been called to take personal administrative responsibility for the extra juridical declaration of Fr.Balasuriya’s excommunication, Pope John Paul is now obliged to ‘’take judicial responsibility as well.’’

However, proving the invalidity of Fr.Bala-suriya’s excommunication does not resolve the question of whether the content of his book’ Mary and Human Liberation ‘is heretical, and whether he has held obstinately to a heretical doctrine. Fr.Balasuriya has always been ready to confront the theological questions involved in his work and even correct himself publicly on any points in which he may be shown to be wrong.

Meanwhile Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation, whose handling of Fr.Balsuriya’s case has aroused worldwide condemnation, now shows a readiness to save face and dialogue with him. But Fr.Balasuriya is calm. “I have no feelings, “he said. ‘’ I lost all feelings when the Pope approved a condemnation that was so unjust. My Mother the Church has let me down. My concern is for a Church of truth and justice and love.’’

He referred to judgement without trial, Cardinal Ratzinger’s unknown accusers, unseen witnesses not examined, presuming righteousness of accusers. He spoke of punishment without proof, penalty without appeal. The victim was blamed, with the burden of proof on the falsely accused, and asking the victim to apologise.

Basil Fernando in his brilliant new book ‘Power of Conscience’ says: ‘’ Tissa is quiet, reflective and contemplative. He believes that his faith has answers to his quests. Because of this he was shocked when the Church tried with him bureaucratically by tricking him with an’’ ad hoc theological commission,’’ a bogus act of faith drafted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, and then to excommunicate him. His insistence on due process was an assertion that the faith he relied on cannot be so treacherous...........’’ “Being a heart patient I may not have long to live,’’ said Fr.Balasuriya. He showed me a typed statement.’’ I want this statement to be read at my obsequies.

I have given my whole life to the service of God and humans and through the Church, and I pray that this process I am going through for the affirmation of the right theological investigation and publication and for not being misrepresented concerning my expressed views will be seen as an effort to be truthful to this call.’’ (World copyright Sunday Times)

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