Card. Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, inaugurated 2017 as the year dedicated to St. Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka and the country's first saint canonized by Pope Francis during the pastoral visit of 2015.
The ceremony was held on 14 January in the cathedral of St. Lucia in
Kotahena in the capital, in conjunction with the closing of the Year of
Mercy. Speaking to those present, the cardinal said: "St. Joseph Vaz was
an extraordinary example of reconciliation for the Tamils and the
Sinhalese, the two linguistic groups [and ethnic, ed] of Sri Lanka. He
not only spoke both languages, but has lived peacefully with members of
the two ethnic groups. "
The archbishop reported that the island's Catholic Church intends to
publish more details "on his courageous work for Sri Lanka and for the
Catholics in the world. Particular attention will be given to the fight
against poverty and the growth of religious harmony among different
religions and racial groups, virtues that St. Joseph Vaz embodied in
On the inauguration day, a relic of the saint (a blue cotton jacket) was
exposed for devotion in two places of worship: from 6 am to 4 pm, at
the shrine of St. Anthony Kochchikade; from 9 pm to 4:30 in the
afternoon, in the cathedral of St. Lucia, where it was carried in
procession. From next March 31 the relic will be placed in the Basilica
of Our Lady of Tewatte, the national Marian shrine.
For the occasion, the official hymn "Vandaneeyawu, Pujaneeyawu" composed
J.K.S. Perera was also performed. The Cardinal urged the bishops and
priests present to promote the song in all the parishes of the diocese
during the year.
In the days following the various ceremonies were held on the territory
and in the schools. In Maha Galgamuwa, in the central-west where there
is a church dedicated to the Apostle, the foundation stone for a
national shrine in his honor was laid.