Carmelite Priests to Minister in Sri Lanka

Hoping Presence Will Bring Vocations

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, FEB. 12, 2009 ( Discalced Carmelite priests are hoping their presence in Sri Lanka will lend support to the 50 Carmelite nuns on the island and give rise to native Sri Lankan priestly vocations.

According to the curia-general of the order, provision for future foundations of monasteries for Carmelite priests on the island is in response to bishops’ invitations to support the nuns, who arrived to Sri Lanka in 1935 and now live in three carmels.

They also hope to foster Sri Lankan vocations, as the last native Sri Lankan Carmelite priest, Father Gabriel Gunasekara, died almost a year ago.

Only about 6% of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people are Christian.

The island nation is the site of a 25-year conflict between the separatist Tamil Tigers and the government. The fighting over the decades has caused the suppression of some of the Carmelites’ monasteries.

The recent escalation of the conflict and the plight of nearly a quarter million civilians trapped in the last corner held by the Tigers have raised international concern, including that of the Pope. The Holy Father on Feb. 4 said: «News of a worsening of the conflict and the growing number of innocent victims moves me to offer a pressing appeal to the combatants to respect humanitarian law and people’s freedom of movement.

«May they do everything possible to guarantee assistance for the wounded and security for civilians, and permit their urgent food and medical needs to be satisfied.»

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