Bombing forces to move Our Lady of Madhu statue to the Bishop's house

Mannar, Srilanka, July.27, 2008 (vaticans.org) - New fighting and bombing in northern Sri Lanka has forced tens of thousands of refugees to seek shelter in the jungle and the local Catholic Church has again moved the statue of Our Lady of Madhuto the local bishop's house.

AsiaNews reports the statue of Our Lady of Madhu was taken this week from the church of Thevanpiddi to the private chapel in the bishop's residence.

 Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph says this was done for "security reasons" due the intensification of the conflict in the areas of Thavanpiddi and Vellankulam, where the priests were also advised to leave.

Bishop Rayappu has launched "an appeal to all our people to earnestly pray for peace in our dear land and for the day when we all can get together as one family at the feet of our dear Mother, Our Lady of Madhu," after she is brought back to the shrine from which she was taken because it has become an area of heavy fighting.

The website of the defence ministry explains the statue was taken away in an ambulance, accompanied by Rev Peter Arulnadan, Fr Sathyapillai Emaliyanuspillai, and Sister Idha Thomas, after insistent requests from the faithful who were worried about the safety of the statue, which is the object of great devotion on the part of the Sinhalese of every religion and ethnicity.

Thousands of pilgrims come to the shrine each year, especially during the ten day celebration in August. But since 1999, the rebels have controlled the area of the shrine, and the visits have decreased significantly. The state has now repaired the shrine from the damage it received under fire.

Bishop Rayappu observes that "due to the escalation of the war in the uncleared area in Madhu and Manthai during the past months in the district of Mannar, thousands of families have been displaced several times and had moved into the Vellankullam-Thevanapiddy area. The plight of these displaced people is very pathetic and their sufferings beyond description. These displaced people have again come under threat and due to heavy shellings are on their way to possible interim locations. Most of these people are living under trees along the road and in the nearby jungles and their situation is heartrending."

Source: Cathnews

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