Sri Lanka: Our Lady of Madhu and the Bishop

Sri Lankan government forces are closing in on Madhu area in Mannar district and it is said that this capture will be very beneficial for the morale of the troops and the government. In the event of army advancing, the Bishop of Mannar Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph has moved the statue of Our Lady of Madhu deep into the LTTE controlled areas. This has received a mixed reaction from the Sri Lankan blogosphere. The shrine is considered one of the holiest Catholic spots in Sri Lanka, and is known to attract Catholics regardless of their ethnicity. Despite its importance, the fact that is is situated in the conflict zone has meant that fewer devotees visit the shrine over the years.

Lanka Libertarian strongly questions the Bishop's motives in his post Time for Mannar Bishop Rayauppu Joseph to speak up.

He has allowed priests under him like the ones depicted above to participate in LTTE propaganda and has not disciplined them as far as i know. Bishop of Mannar himself has attended LTTE propaganda rallies and other functions, including reportedly the funeral of roasted murderers like Thamilchelvan and have turned a blind eye to child soldiers participating in such functions.
All of that lead us to believe he is a willing collaborator of a murderous fascist group. offers a different view siting that an unarmed catholic priest can't do what he wants in a LTTE controlled area in his post Opinion: Our Lady of Madhu and the Bishop of Mannar .

As for the frequent allegation of bias of the Mannar Bishop and his Diocesan priests towards the tigers, once again it smacks of total insensitivity to the complexity of the situation.

For one thing the Bishop has continuously stood for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He has consistently denounced war and violence. At the last Presidential Elections he unsuccessfully appealed to his followers to exercise their franchise, contrary to LTTE orders against it. The late Maj. Gen. Parami Kulatunga was a good personal friend of his – all of this demonstrates his impartiality in the crisis.

It must stressed that a substantial portion of the Mannar Diocese lies in LTTE territory so the Bishop of Mannar is not in a position to take on the Tigers as much as he would like to. It is easy for the JHU to shout hoarse from their safe well secured confines in Colombo, but for an unarmed priest of God to openly challenge the world's most ruthless terrorists in their own territory is an impossible task. talks about the people who are caught in the crossfire and goes on to add why capturing Madhu is this significant for the president in his post Madhu Church: Tragic Casualty of Politico-Military Crossfire.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a devout Buddhist but the First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa is an equally devout Catholic. Shortly before his Presidential election campaign in 2005 Rajapaksa wished to go to the Madhu church with his wife.

Since the Madhu church was in LTTE controlled territory, “permission” was sought from the Tigers for the visit. Rajapaksa was Prime Minister then. The LTTE laid down the condition that once inside LTTE territory, Rajapaksa should dispense with his security detail and rely only on Tiger escort. This was unacceptable and the idea of a Madhu visit was aborted.

The issue however rankled in Mahinda’s mind. During his election campaign he often referred to the fact that though he was Prime Minister he was not allowed to visit some parts of the country.

1 comment

  • Buddhist leaders in Sri Lanka are encouraging their Catholic counterparts to bring a cherished statue of the Virgin Mary back to the famous shrine at Madhu in Mannar.
    The image of Our Lady of Madhu, which has drawn pilgrims for over 400 years, was removed by LTTE terrorists after hit by artillery fire them self. Buddhist leaders said that they would join with Catholics in the region to protest the rebel exploitation of the shrine and call for the safe restoration of the statue.
    With all due respect to the Madhu Church which is Sacred to all Catholics in this country where the statue of Our Lady of Madhu is enshrined and where annually, vast congregations of Catholics make pilgrimages to pay their respects and pray for protection and guidance, it is sad to read in the newsprint, reports of how the statue of Our Lady of Madhu, the Madhu Church is now being manipulated and insulted by the very same Bishops who are supposed to be protecting it and defending it. It is also sad, to note that Our Lady of Madhu has permitted the LTTE to encroach on the Sacred area under the purview of the Madhu Church with all the Holy Powers that she is supposed to re

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.