Around 3,500 pilgrims from India on Saturday and Sunday took part in the St. Antony’s Church festival in Kachchatheevu after a gap of 27 years.
Top officials of Sri Lankan security forces led by General Mahinda Hathurashinga, Commander, Security Forces, Jaffna Peninsula, and K. Ganesh, Government Agent, Jaffna, and Indian High Commission officials received both Indian and Sri Lankan pilgrims at Kachchatheevu.
The fishermen hailing from different parts of Sri Lanka and their counterparts in India hugged each other and exchanged pleasantries. The number of participants from Sri Lanka was less than the Indian pilgrims.
The Sri Lankan Navy welcomed the Indian pilgrims, most of them were from Rameswaram and Pamban in Tamil Nadu.
Led by Rev. A. Joseph Lourduraja, Vicar General, Sivaganga diocese; Rev. Michael Raj (Rameswaram) and Rev. Amalraj (Sri Lanka), special masses were held in the church.
“This is absolutely marvellous to see the participants from two countries in Kachchatheevu after several years. They have come here with devotion on pilgrimage. I hope this will continue in the future also,” General Mahinda Hathurashinga told The Hindu.
“Besides a large number of Indian pilgrims, fishermen and Christians from Delft, Kayts, Jaffna were also participated in the festival,” said K. Ganesh, Government Agent, Jaffna peninsula.
T. Amuthan (45), a Sri Lankan who had lost his right leg in a shell attack during the war, said it was an occasion to seek the divine intervention to ensure lasting peace in Sri Lanka, which had witnessed a civil war for about 25 years.
“As Indians we feel immensely happy that our right (visiting Kachchatheevu as pilgrims) mentioned in the 1974 agreement, has been restored after a long gap,” said SP. Royappan of Pamban.