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|Author:||Pink [ Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:25 am ]|
By Melina Jaimon
DM / 02Aug2005
Destination-Madhu. A pilgrimage to one of the oldest churches in the country situated in LTTE controlled areas. Turning off the A-9 the drive upto the church stands witness to the destruction and savagery caused by the war that has ravaged the country for decades.
Broken buildings, dismantled railway lines and endless checkpoints still drive in the insecurity of the area. The final turn off to the Madhu church is the final checkpoint by the Army after inspection. Several metres away yet another check point. An LTTE one, a lot more obtrusive.
Finally we arrive at Madhu. Flocks of people visit this church annually and the vast grounds are packed to capacity during the festive season. A church rich in history, it has withstood the war and the trials that came with it.
In 1583 the number of Christians is said to have been about 43,000 with 26 churches. One of these churches was situated in Mantai, a village about six miles from Mannar.The church was the original name of Our Lady of Madhu, which at that time was called the Our Lady of Good Health.
The conquests of the island by the Dutch caused many problems and the statue of Our Lady of Madhu started its journey to a new place. It was ultimately brought to a customs house belonging to a Kandyan King at Maruthamadhu.
About the same time there was another coincidental migration to Maruthamadu from the Jaffna peninsula.
Avoiding persecution from the Dutch were around 700 Catholics, among them Helena, a daughter of a Portuguese captain. The first church dedicated to our Lady of Madhu was built by this pious lady.
The building of the Madhu church started by Bishop Bonjean was continued by Bishop Melizan and completed by Bishop Joulian.
In 1924, 100 years after the statue of Our Lady of Madhu had been given a permanent habitation at Madhu, it was solemnly and officially crowned. Dr.Coudert, Archbishop of Colombo, who was appointed Legate by His Holiness, Pope Pius XI, prescribed rites and prayers and crowned the image of our Lady.
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