His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo and also President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka (CBCSL), presided together with the other Bishops at the Press Conference held on 11th December 2013 at the Bishops’ Conference Secretariat, at Borella, on the occasion of issue of the PASTORAL LETTER, titled “ Towards the Reconciliation and rebuilding of our Nation”.
Welcoming the representatives of the Media, His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm said that the Catholic Bishops in Sri Lanka have issued communiqués to the Catholic faithful in this country for their reflection and guidance. It was 29 years ago, in 1984, that a Pastoral Letter was issued, titled “ Towards rebuilding of the Sri Lankan Nation”.
His Lordship Bishop Valence Mendis, Secretary General of the CBCSL, His Lordship Bishop Vianney Fernando Bishop of Kandy, His Lordship Kinglsey Swampillai Bishop of Trincomalee and the representative of the Major Religious Catholic Congregations participated at the Press Conference
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, said that he had requested President Mahinda Rajapaksa to block the legal loopholes through which fundamentalist religious groups crept into the country to fulfill their interests. He said many such groups used BOI Laws to set up establishments in Sri Lanka and engage in conversions.
“The Catholic Church does not believe in using various gifts and bribes to convert people and we have made our Stance clear to all other religious leaders, including the Buddhist monks,” he said.
The Cardinal said fundamentalist religious groups were a hindrance to the harmony between various religious groups.
“We cannot afford to damage religious harmony at a time when ethnic harmony is also threatened,” he added.
The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka also urged the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the government have a dialogue in order to come up with a workable solution to the national issue. The church had urged for a dialogue in its ‘Pastoral Letter’ of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Sri Lanka, which was introduced as a document in which the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka used to communicate its stand on various issues.
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith who introduced this document to the media yesterday said it did not matter whether the dialogue between the government and the TNA took place within the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee or as a direct negotiation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference also stressed the need to appoint a civilian governor to the Northern Province and to treat the council similar to the rest of the provincial councils. The Bishops are also of the opinion that there should be a mechanism to probe various happenings with regard to the war.
His Lordship Bishop Valence Mendis Secretary General of the CBCSL, said that the last Pastoral Letter highlighted several areas of concern and also made pertinent proposals to ameliorate the conditions created by the burning social issues of that time. Some of these proposals were acted upon, but many remained unimplemented or went unheeded. Today the Bishops are responding to the present situation and placing before the people many important matters for their elucidation. This, the Bishops have done after deep study of the vital issues that engage our attention and thus need to be addressed in a responsible manner if we are to move forward as a united nation. The biblical basis for the current Pastoral Letter is derived from Jesus’ own words: ” If anyone wishes to be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Holy Mother the Church teaches us the importance of being alive to the realities surrounding us, since that is the way to give true witness to our faith.
It was also urged that all human rights violations that had taken place during the insurrections of 1971, 1987/89 and also during the war be probed. “A local mechanism is a must in order to prevent any international intervention as that is the last thing the country needs.” His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm said.
His Eminence added that in 1984 the Bishops had pointed out that unless we as citizens of this country learn to settle issues among ourselves through dialogue and in a spirit of magnanimity, foreign interference was sure to arise.
Observing that current trends have borne out the validity of the Bishops’ fears and the substance of their warnings, His Eminence said that we must firmly stand against all forms of meddling by other countries in our internal affairs. At the same time, ofcourse, we must remain genuinely committed to resolving our problems using our own means.
“We can find a decent way out of our problems,” the Cardinal said. “We have the intelligence, the capacity and the spiritual strength for it, backed by a common religious heritage. Apart from that, we arc also aware of what foreign interventions have done in other countries. There, the problems in those countries still remain unresolved. So, it is up to us to learn to coexist as brothers and sisters. It is only then that we can ward off any overtures by outside parties.”
It was also stressed that there should be two-way traffic when it came to settling in the North and elsewhere in the country. It was therefore highlighted by the Bishops that anyone in the South who wished to live in the North should be allowed to do so and vice versa. However, the Cardinal said forceful settlements in the North would lead to further problems.
Read Complete document: “ Towards the Reconciliation and rebuilding of our Nation”.