Bishop Joseph Rayappu's Welcoming Words to Pope Francis at Marian Shrine of Madhu

«Your Holiness presence here is an exceptional blessing to this Shrine and to all its devotees.»

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Here is the welcoming address delivered by Bishop Joseph Rayappu of Mannar to Pope Francis during his visit to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Madhu, Sri Lanka.

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Most Holy Father

We the Bishops, priests, religious and the faithful gathered here today welcome you with filial greetings. You are visiting our Country-Sri Lanka as a messenger of Peace based on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation. Thank you for your admirable love for the poor and the suffering in the footsteps of our Lord and of St. Francis of Assisi.

Mannar had been blessed by God as the place of first Martyrdom in Asia at the very beginning of Christianity here in 1544 when more than six hundred Neophytes gave up their life for the sake of their newly received faith due to odium Fidei of the then king of Jaffna in the North of the country. The blood of the Martyrs of Mannar had become the seed of the faith in the entire North and eventually in the whole Country.

This Shrine itself in the thick jungle has 400 years of rich history and had been relocated here from its original abode in Manthai during the persecution in the Dutch Colonizers in our regions. This shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary had fostered the faith and the devotion of all our dear people from all over the Country regardless of all differences of race, religion or language for the last four centuries.

It still remains the privileged Marian Shrine of fostering priestly and religious vocations in our Dioceses. Over 600,000-00 devotees from all over gather here for the Major Festival of the Assumption on the 15th of August each year and a large number for the other monthly Festivals and weekends.

Your Holiness’ presence here is an exceptional blessing to this Shrine and to all its devotees. May Your Holiness’ visit and your prayers bring to our Motherland Peace and Prosperity. We all with great devotion pray daily for Your Holiness and take this opportunity to offer you our deep sense of filial obedience, respect and love. May God bless you and May our Lady keep close to you in all your pastoral undertak ings to inspire and lead the Church and the World at large

[Original text: English]

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