Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Ranjith Patabendige to head the archdiocese of Colombo

Vatican City, June 17, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don — one of his most trusted collaborators in the Vatican and a forceful advocate for justice and peace — to head the archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka

A strong leader, he returns as head of the Sri Lankan Church in what many observers see as a particularly difficult moment. A bloody 30-year civil war has just ended with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers rebels.

One of only two Asians in top positions in the Roman Curia — the other being Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples — he succeeds Archbishop Oswald Gomis, who reached the official retirement age of 75 over 18 months ago.

The Vatican made the announcement on June 16, confirming rumors that have circulated in Rome for almost two years.

Archbishop Ranjith was born in Polgahawela, Sri Lanka, on Nov. 15, 1947 and completed his early studies in Colombo and Kandy, before going on to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he obtained a degree in theology.

Pope Paul VI ordained him priest in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, 1975.

He then went for higher studies and gained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a special certificate in Biblical studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

After various pastoral and academic appointments in Colombo archdiocese, and having served in various roles at national level, Pope John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Colombo in 1991 and appointed him bishop of Ratnapura in 1995.

From 1995-2001, he served as secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and chairman of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development. In the latter role, he became heavily involved in the search for a solution to the country’s civil conflict. The government appointed him as its emissary on peace negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

Pope John Paul II brought him to Rome on Oct. 1, 2001, as adjunct secretary at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and on April 29, 2004, appointed him apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and Timor Leste.

Archbishop Ranjith was among the first of the new appointments to the Roman Curia made by Pope Benedict XVI after his election. On Dec. 10, 2005, the pontiff designated him secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a post he has held until now and which has given him considerable international experience and a wide understanding of the universal Church.

The archbishop speaks English, French, German, Italian, Sinhalese and Tamil fluently, and has a fair knowledge of Indonesian and Spanish. He has also studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Arabic.

Many in Rome believe his new appointment puts him in line for a red hat. Sources expect Pope Benedict to make him a cardinal either in the forthcoming consistory, probably in 2010, or in the next one, about two years later.

- Asian Tribune -


Archbishop Gomis: War is not over in Sri Lanka

India, May 21, 2009 - Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared an end to the nation's civil war in mid-May, but the head of the Sri Lankan Catholic bishops' conference said the war will be over only when the island nation is able to overcome its ethnic divisions.

"The war is technically over. But we can celebrate the real end of war only when we are able to overcome our prejudices and live together as one people," Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando of Kandy, conference president, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from his home May 19.

"I was extremely happy to hear the president (Rajapaksa) say today that the word 'minority' will be removed from our dictionary," the bishop said.

The government said it killed rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, ending an ethnic conflict that has claimed more than 80,000 lives. Prabhakaran, who founded the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the mid-1970s, led the group's campaign for autonomy for the predominantly Tamil areas of the Indian Ocean island.

Bishop Fernando said the conflict, which turned into a virtual civil war beginning in 1983, was caused by "the treatment of a section of our people (ethnic Tamils) as not fully Sri Lankan."

The country's Tamil-speaking ethnic minority accounts for 18 percent of Sri Lanka's 19 million people.

Many among the Sinhalese-speaking Buddhist majority believe that Buddhism and Buddhists should enjoy supremacy in Sri Lanka.

In an earlier statement, Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo expressed sentiments similar to those of Bishop Fernando, saying "We have won the battle but the war is not ended."

"The war would end only on the day that we grow in nationhood, realizing that we are all one people in one country with equal right," said Archbishop Gomis.

"We have to realize the fact that we are a multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural community," said the archbishop, whose archdiocese accounts for more than half of the 1 million Catholics in Sri Lanka.

"As such, we are now left with the great task of nation building, forgetting our ethnic, political and religious differences," he said.

Bishop Fernando said the immediate challenge before the nation is "to take care of the quarter-million Tamil civilians who have been rescued (from the war zone) and help them rebuild their lives."

On May 19 Rajapaksa pledged the rapid resettlement of those Tamils, now in camps for internally displaced persons, but in a statement the same day Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, said humanitarian agencies needed unrestricted access to the camps.


Archbishop of Chennai calls for international pressure on the government of Colombo

Chennai, India, April 23, 2009 - "It has become a mass graveyard - the bloody war in Sri Lanka has led to a mass massacre, and nothing can justify this military option." Malayappan Chinnappa, archbishop of Chennai, comments to AsiaNews on the reports from Sri Lanka, where the army has launched a military operation to wipe out the resistance of the Tamil Tigers.

All over the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, there are demonstrations against the war that is making hundreds of thousands of refugees, and a growing number of victims among civilians. A general strike called by Tamil associations and groups in the state is receiving support from some local political groups, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, an ally of the Congress Party, but as India goes through the second of five rounds in the national elections, many parties prefer to steer clear.

The archbishop of Chennai calls for international pressure on the government of Colombo, and says: "World leaders should utilize all their power to stop the war in Sri Lanka. The operations of the international bodies and world communities should be exhaustive. History has proved that military solutions never bring about a resolution, rather political negotiations and peaceful dialogue can hope to bring about some resolution.

"To the Tamils currently living all over the world - we are with you in spirit, prayer and solidarity." The Indian Church "is also with all the suffering people, all the victims of the war in the killing fields of Sri Lanka." "The Church is Mother to all peoples," Archbishop Chinnappa adds, "all are children of God, and we the Church prays incessantly for an immediate end to the war for suffering masses in the so-called 'safe zone', and their views reflect the realities on the ground."

-Asianews


Bishops of Sri Lanka pray for Cease Fire

Colombo, April 15, 2009 - Easter recalls the victory of Jesus Christ, the living God, over the forces of darkness and destruction. Looking at Christ, humanity can rise again to a new life by overcoming the logic of death, war, and division. This is the message issued on the occasion of the Easter celebrations by Oswald Gomis, the archbishop of Colombo, Anglican bishop Duleep de Chickera, and Fr. Sebastian Maria Anthony, superior general of the Jesuits of Sri Lanka, who asks for "peace in the country, and the end of the suffering for the civil population."

Today, the Tamil rebel militias announced that they want to negotiate a ceasefire with the government forces, and resume the peace talks, to put an end to the decades of bloody conflict on the island. The Tamil Tigers are asking for a long term ceasefire, under the supervision of the international community. The Sinhalese government has rejected the request, saying that the rebels must lay down their weapons before any negotiations can be undertaken.

The archbishop of Colombo recalls that with war, "no lasting results are obtained," because the peace and prosperity of the nation "can be built only with dialogue." "As we enter this Easter," Archbishop Gomis says, "all Sri Lankans are experiencing the dangers of the war, the sorrows and pains of the internally displaced people, and the harsh reality of the anti-conversion bill."

The archbishop is reiterating the Church's efforts "to uproot" the sufferings of the population, which does not want to perpetuate "an ethnic conflict." "We strongly condemn every and each effort which is trying to fulfill narrow goals by keeping innocent Tamil civilians as human shield," he continues. Archbishop Gomis is also calling for a "political solution" to put an end to the civil war.

Peace and justice in the country are at the center of the message from Anglican bishop Duleep De Chickera. "The good news of Easter," he affirms, "is a call to transformation for all our leaders and people. But for this to happen, we need to engage in self-scrutiny." only this will make it possible to "put an end to the suffering" of the refugees, the civilians, the poor, and the unemployed. The Anglican bishop recalls those who are hit by the economic crisis and the young people, whose difficulties endanger "the future development of the nation." He also defends the right of "freedom of expression," and the possibility of "expressing disagreement" in civil and democratic terms.

Fr. Sebastian Maria Anthony, superior general of the Jesuits of Sri Lanka, issues a warning for the unity of the country: "Let not our caste, creed, ethnic and linguistic identities prevent us from exercising our Identity as children of God - brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ." "Let the Risen Christ," he continues, "give us the power to transcend the identities that limit and prevent us from working for a just and humane society. Let the Risen Christ give us the power and courage to speak for the voiceless and marginalised brothers and sisters of our country. Let the Risen Christ empower us to work for reconciliation and peace."

-Asianews


Bishops appointed for Bomadi, Poona, Chanthaburi diocese

Vatican City, April 07, 2009 - The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on April 4, 2009, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Poona (India) presented by Bishop Valerian D’Souza, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law, canon 401 § 1. The Holy Father appointed as Bishop of Poona (India), Bishop Thomas Dabre, Bishop of the Diocese of Vasai (India).

The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on April 4, 2009, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Bomadi (Nigeria) presented by Bishop Joseph O. Egerega, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law, canon 401 § 1. The Holy Father appointed as Apostolic Vicar of Bomadi (Nigeria), Bishop Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, until now Titular Bishop of Lacubaza and Auxiliar of the same Apostolic Vicariate.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI, on April 2, 2009, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Diocese of Chanthaburi (Thailand) presented by Bishop Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit, in conformity with the Code of Canon Law, canon 401 § 1. The Holy Father appointed as Bishop of Chanthaburi (Thailand), Fr. Silvio Siripong Charatsri, Vicar General of Ratchaburi.

Fr. Silvio Siripong Charatsri was born on December 10, 1959 in Ban Nok Kwaek, in the Diocese of Ratchaburi. He studied at the Diocesan Minor Seminary and attended elementary and high school studies in Ratchaburi. He then attended the National Major Seminary “Lux Mundi” in Sampran (Bangkok), finishing his philosophy and theology studies. He was ordained a priest on May 19, 1987 for the Diocese of Ratchaburi. He has since ministered as follows:1987-1988: Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Watplunh, Ratchaburi; 1989-1991: Vice-Rector of the Ratchaburi Diocesan Minor Seminary; 1991-1992: Diploma in Pastoral Studies in Manila (EAPI), Philippines; 1992-1995: Rector of the Ratchaburi Diocesan Minor Seminary; 1996-1998: Pastor of Saint John Bosco Church, Ratchaburi; 1998-2000: Studies for a Licentiate in Teology at the Angelicum, in Rome; 2001-2005: Vice-Rector of the “Lux Mundi” Major Seminary in Sampran; since 2006: Vicar General of Ratchaburi, Rector of the Diocesan School in Ratchabri, Pastor of Saint John Bosco Church.

The Diocese of Chanthaburi was erected in 1944, and is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Bangkok. It has an area of 34,000 km, with 4,454,615 inhabitants (38,918 Catholics), 42 parishes, 112 priests (89 diocesan and 23 religious), 16 religious brothers, 15 seminarians, and 199 religious.

-Agenzia Fides


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