Daivik Amrith Tours organized a pilgrimage to Srilanka to mark the day of canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz who served in our diocese from 10 – 14 January 2015.The team witnessed the historical event of canonization of St Joseph Vaz by Pope Francis. They also visited different places connected to the life of the saint.
WAHAKOTTE:Is an ancient and important place of historical importance for the Catholic community from the time of the Portuguese. Fr. Vaz had visited this Catholic community several times on his way from Kandy to Puttalam and celebrated Mass; a stone cross has been planted, over which is an octagonal structure as a roof. Kings Wijerajasinghe returned the ivory statures that were plundered from the Church in Kandy in 1999. They can be seen enthroned in the Church of St. Anthony in Wahakotte.
WEUDA:It was in Weuda where Blessed Joseph Vaz waited for permission from the King to enter the Kandyan Kingdom. However he was betrayed by French noblemen who told the king that he was a Prtuguese spy. Blessed Joseph Vas was taken prisoner here.
ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS 147 acres in extent; Started in 1374 as a pleasure garden of the Kings of Gampola and Kandy. There are more than 4,000 species of trees, plants and creepers. Some rare and endemic as well as flora from the tropical world are found in the gardens. Spice Garden and Orchid House are popular with tourists. There are 5 Palm Avenues beautifying the gardens, the earliest and tallest Palm Avenue (Royal Palm Avenue) was planted in 1905 and the Double Coconuts from the Seashells Island, with the largest seed of all plants in the world is one such avenue.
BOLAWATTE: During the Portuguese rule the Jesuits were the chief missionaries here. King Narendrasinghe gifted the land where the Church now stands, to the Oratoriens. Fr. Jacome Gonsalves is buried here and his tombstone can be seen today.He was the Oratorian priest that assisted Blessed Joseph Vaz and was given the task of translating into Sinhala the prayers and hymns which are in use today.
WENNAPPUWA– Visit the church which is adjoining the Joseph Vaz College, the very first Institute to be dedicated to Blessed Joseph Vaz and begun by the Marist Brothers in 1934. Wennappuwa is an important Catholic center in the diocese of Chillaw.
TEWATTE – Visit the replica of Basilica church in Tewatte dedicated to our Lady of Lanka. The origins of the shrine at Tewatte date back to 1911 when a few Catholics together with the Parish Priest of Ragama Fr. A. Kieger OMI, erected a small chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes. This area was then a part of the parish of Ragama. On 11th November 1917, a small grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was added by Fr. A. Collorec OMI, with the assistance of some Catholic workers from Colombo. The Chapel was later enlarged to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims and a larger grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built by the side of the church in the 1930’s. The church with a “Holy Well” by its side and the shrine gradually became a place of pilgrimage for the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Colombo. The Grotto on the Basilica grounds is a replica of the rocks that remained France. Some of the rocks that remained from the construction of the grotto were utilized in building the Basilica. The remains of Fr. Marthurai, who took great pains in the construction of the building is buried in the grotto.
The sacred shrine of Tewatte came into prominence with World War II. The Second World War, declared in 1939, had a grave impact on Sri Lanka. Many countries in Asia had already come under Japanese occupation and the enemy had come as close as Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and India. Japan had now set her eyes on Sri Lanka especially because of the strategic importance of the Island’s natural harbour in Trincomalee, considered the largest in Asia wielding control over the whole Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka, at the time being a colony of the British Empire, was also in a ‘state of war’. This Basilica was built in fulfillment of a vow made by the Archbishop Masson Omi during the World War II to be freed from this invasion
On 14 January the team was privileged to attend the canonization ceremony from very closely.