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Caritas felicitates Buddhist prelate

Venerable Dr Ittapane Dhammalankara Mahanayake Thero who was recently elevated to the high office of Mahanayake (Chief Prelate) of the Kotte Sri Kalyani Samasridharma Maha Sangha Sabhawa was honoured at a felicitation event held at Caritas Sri Lanka auditorium on 12th June 2015 under the patronage of His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka. Among others present on the occasion were Most Rev Dr Vianney Fernando, Chairman of Caritas Sri Lanka SEDEC, Rev Fr George Sigamoney, National Director of SEDEC and several members iof the Catholic and Buddhist clergy.

Welcoming the participants, Fr Sigamoney said that the Buddhist prelate’s appointment is a great honour for the whole of Sri Lanka and that it is of special significance to Caritas, not only because of the Venerable Thero’s long and close association with the institution but also because of his well-known commitment to justice, peace and interreligious harmony.
Bishop Vianney Fernando in his introduction said that the Ven. Thero’s appointment is not a surprise to any of us because he is eminently suited to hold this high office. Caritas was glad to arrange this felicitation for someone like him who had shown great courage in all what he said and did, His Lordship said, adding that the Church wants to work with the Buddhists to raise our combined voices in all the national issues facing the country.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith noted that the Ven. Thero had once written a book titled “Malpale upan pansale piyathuma” about the late Fr Marcelline Jayakody and that it was the first ever instance of a Buddhist monk writing a book about a Catholic priest. “Ven.Thero is a good and devout Buddhist who not only holds fast to Buddha Dhamma but also lives the Dhamma“, His Eminence said, recalling further that during the time of the military conflict in the North and East, Ven Ittapane Dhammalankara Thero was closely associated with the Church in its peace building efforts to achieve a united Sri Lanka. He is presently the Chair of the Congress of Religions and gives that movement a vibrant leadership, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith noted.

Accepting a memento presented to him on the occasion by His Eminence the Cardinal, Ven. Thero said that he cannot remember whether there ever was an occasion such as this where the Catholic Church felicitated a Buddhist prelate in this manner. “This is the very first time, and it is unique indeed”, he said. Though we as religious leaders have associated so closely with each other, we still have not fully understood our role in this country, especially with regard to the national question and other religious issues, he observed. “Religious leaders can help to find solutions to these conflicts and to help bring about reconciliation, and that is something the politicians cannot do because they have a different agenda. Religious leaders fully understand the need for unity even in the midst of several forces that are at work to divide our people”, Ven. Thero said in conclusion.

Rev Fr Paaris Jayamaha, Diocesan Director of Caritas Anuradhapura Sethsaviya proposed a Vote of Thanks on behalf of the organizing committee.