Toronto Tamil Catholics will gather for a Mass of thanksgiving to celebrate the canonization of Joseph Vaz Jan. 18 at St. Theresa's Shrine of the Little Flower Church. Photo by Michael Swan

Toronto Tamils welcome Pope's 'message of healing'

By 
  • January 13, 2015

TORONTO - Pope Francis’ mission of healing to Sri Lanka will be a critical moment for Toronto’s huge Tamil community, which includes thousands of refugees still mourning relatives killed in the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war, said Tamil priest and theologian Fr. Joseph Chandrakanthan.

“(Toronto’s Tamils) are very happy that he insisted on going to the war zone in the north and east, that is the great shrine of Our Lady of Madhu,” said Chandrakanthan. “I hope and pray that he will make some reference to the dead.”

Pope Francis will spend two and a half days in Sri Lanka. He will preside over the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary from India who kept Catholic communities going under Dutch rule that made Calvinism the official religion of the island.

The Pope arrived in Sri Lanka the day after newly elected Maithripala Sirisena took over the presidential office.

Sirisena told the Pope his visit “gives me an opportunity to receive your blessing as I begin my term of office.”

Everybody wants reconciliation, but it’s not going to be easy, said Chandrakanthan, who taught moral theology at the seminary in Jaffna through much of the civil war.

“Reconciliation is not a one-way traffic. Reconciliation has to be two ways,” Chandrakanthan said. “Reconciliation is not submission, it’s not subjugation. Reconciliation is not an imposed reality. Christian reconciliation is always to be a free act involving repentance, but it’s a free act of individuals. We come together as equals. You cannot have reconciliation in the master-and-servitude concept.”

The election and the Pope’s visit together may grant Sri Lanka the opportunity for a new beginning, said Chandrakanthan.

“You cannot continue to live in despair and it has to be overcome by signs of hope. This is a sign of hope, that they voted,” he said.

Toronto Tamil Catholics will gather for a Mass of thanksgiving to celebrate the canonization of Joseph Vaz Jan. 18 at St. Theresa's Shrine of the Little Flower Church.

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