Diocesan Authority over Madu Shrine should remain uncompromised: Mannaar Bishop

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 December 2018, 22:30 GMT]
The Diocese of Mannar is still on a clarification and consultation stage in its engagement with the SL Presidential Secretariat on the proposal of declaring the locality of Madu Shrine as a sacred area, Bishop of Mannaar Rt Rev Emmanuel Fernando said in a video interview on Monday. “It is of utmost importance to preserve the authority of the Bishop of the Mannaar Diocese on Madu Shrine without any erosion, same as it has always been,” the Bishop said. “We have also urged the participation of the Administrator – the Holy Friar – of the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in all the discussions,” he said. “We are still watching whether these would be properly met. Only if these concerns are appropriately met, we would be prepared to grant our permission to the move,” Bishop Fernando clarified. “We have also obtained advice to be able to refuse our permission if that is not the case,” he stressed.

The carefully worded response of Mannaar Bishop comes after he was approached to clarify the current status to the local media, which is also aware of the strong reservations being expressed by the sections of Catholic priests in the North-East regarding the unilateral tendencies in Colombo's approach.

The result of the process with the SL Presidential Secretariat would be a Gazette notification, the content of which is being discussed through letters of exchange.

When asked to comment on the difference between the previous Gazette notification and the one presently under consideration, the Bishop briefly touched on the history of stating that the Mannaar Diocese started to function as a distinct diocese since1981 and that it consisted of the districts of Mannaar and Vavuniyaa at that time.

In the year that followed, a Special Gazette notification was issued with the help of SL Minister K.W. Devanayagam. The Gazette from 1982 mentions the borders of 5,538 acres of lands as coming under the domain of Madu Shrine. The limits are also adequately specified. However, that Gazette (under the Pilgrimage Ordinance) was mostly about the conduct of the Madu feast and related arrangements. It defines how the Government support would be made available. The Government Agent of Mannaar District was tasked to ensure the supporting provisions of the public administration.

Twenty-seven different subjects were specified in the 1982 Gazette notification, ranging from water supply to other arrangements that were necessary during the times of Madu feast, according to the needs of that time.

However, according to the present times, there are specific special requirements, which could be easily fulfilled by declaring the 5,338 acres of lands as a sacred area. The SL government was willing to do that, the Bishop said.

Fernando also pointed out that these were lands which could not be claimed as the property of the Madu shrine.

The Madu Shrine could use the land of the sacred area during the times of feast, he said.

However, in the 302 acres that would belong to the shrine in the vicinity of its location, the administration of the Shrine could construct portable water supply, canals, lighting, housing, roads and parking lots for cars and lorries. He was referring to the move as ‘development’.

“We have not seen any clause specifically stating that it would be under the control of the Government. We are still studying the proposal and clarifying the content,” he said adding that the Diocese was also interacting with the Survey Department and other involved government institutions in the process.

The ultimate intention was to make a proper outcome, the Bishop reiterated.



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