Pope Francis arrives in Colombo this morning. He will celebrate a Holy Mass tomorrow morning at Colombo’s promenade Galle Face Green. Hundreds of thousands of devotess are expected to celebrate the canonization of Joseph Vaz. In the afternoon, Pope Francis will visit Madhu Church, which is Sri Lanka’s most significant pilgrimage destination for Roman Catholics. On Thursday, the pope will proceed to the Philippines and celebrate an open air mass in Manila on Sunday.
Joseph Vaz, called “the Apostle of Sri Lanka”, who will be canonized tomorrow, will become the first Sri Lankan Saint.
Joseph Vaz was born on 21st of April 1651 in a village in Goa. After studying philosophy and theology at the St. Thomas Aquinas' Academy of the Dominicans in Goa City, he received the order of Oratorian priesthood in 1657.
Those days, the situation of the Catholics on the island of Sri Lanka was distressful due to Dutch rule. The Dutch had turned out all Roman-Catholic priests. Catholic churches were desecrated. Inviting a Catholic priest to a house carried the death penalty. Due to this suppression most Roman Catholics on the island could not receive their sacraments any more. Hearing of this, Joseph Vaz travelled to the Jaffna Peninsula, disguised as an Indian ascetic. In 1689 he lived and in a village called Sillalai. In 1690, he was forced to change to Puttalam, where he worked as a priest for another whole year. Vaz travelled throughout the country bringing the sacraments to clandestine groups of Roman Catholics. Later on, with the support of the Kandyan King, who opposed Dutch rule, Joseph Vaz was able to revitalise the Roman Catholic Church on the island. After 24 years in Sri Lanka, Joseph Vaz died on the 16th of January 1711 in Kandy. His memorial chapel, which attracts Roman Catholic pilgrims every year, is situated between Galgamuwa and a neighbouring Christian Tamil village called Mahagalgamuwa.
The beatification of Fr. Joseph Vaz was celebrated on 20th January, 1995 when Pope John Paul II pronounced it at the Galle Face Green in Colombo.
On the 17th of September 2014, the Roman Catholic Church decided Pope Francis would canonise Joseph Vaz, though only one miracle has yet been approved, usually two miracles are required to be recognized as an official Catholic Saint. The pope is expected to celebrate the canonisation when visiting Sri Lanka. Joseph Vaz will be the first Saint born in Goa. There is some controversy if he is a Goan or a Sri Lankan Saint. Usually Saints are attributed to the diocese where they died. This is the diocese of Kandy in the case of future St. Joseph Vaz.
all Sri Lanka blog articles
by region, by topic
and A-Z here...