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Holy Father calls for unity of the Church

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI received His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. He then met with the bishops in the patriarch's delegation who were from many diverse countries.

At noon in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father presided over the celebration of the Middle Hour (hora media), which was attended by Karekin II, the Armenian bishops, and a group of faithful apostolic Armenians from a number of countries in the East and West.

After the Patriarch's greeting, the Pope addressing the assembly affirmed that, on this day, "we will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity.

Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ".

Continuing, the Holy Father pointed out that "the recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colours of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual re-birth".

However, he added, "the restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all. An immense task of rebuilding the Church has been laid on your shoulders," mentioning the "remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time".

"Thanks to your pastoral leadership," the Pope assured, "the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more. Of course, you are still facing many challenges on social, cultural, and spiritual levels.

In this regard," he added, "I must mention the recent difficulties suffered by the people of Armenia, and I express the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in their search for justice and peace and the promotion of the common good".

The Holy Father emphasised that in ecumenical dialogue "important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us, particularly over questions of Christology.

During the last five years, much has been achieved by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which the Catholicosate of All Armenians is a full member".

In conclusion, the Holy Father added that "we pray that its activity will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist.


St. Anthony's College, Kandy celebrates 154 years

This year the premier boys Catholic school in Kandy celebrates 154 years since its establishment in 1854. St. Anthony's College, Kandy is the citadel of the OSB fathers who have been administering the school for many years.

St. Anthony’s College, Kandy

These fathers belonging to the order of St. Benedict are the eponymous adherents of the Catholic faith where at present its leader is the Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father in Rome.

It was in November 1853 when Fr. Felice Zoppi, a Franciscan priest from the Chinese missionary field was sent to Kandy that the idea of setting up a school was kindled. Fr. Zoppi promptly set about his task by opening a school for boys and one for girls at the house where he resided.

On 12th March 1854 the schools were officially acknowledged by Fr. Zoppis superior in Colombo, Monsignor Joseph Maria Bravi OSB. This was the birth of St. Anthony's Boys School.

In 1875 Fr. Dom Hildebrand Vanderstraaten OSB was installed as Principal marking the entrusting of the administration and management of the school to the Benedictine monks.

The present Principal is Fr. Titus Rodrigo who took over from Fr. Hilarion Fernando OSB under whose stewardship St. Anthony's College, Kandy celebrated its 150 years anniversary four years ago. A boarding was introduced to the College in 1876. Then the college was situated near St. Anthony's cathedral in the midst of the Kandy town.

The Antonian cricket teams of subsequent years produced some of the most exciting schoolboy cricketers with Wijepala Premaratne being adjudged the 1st all Ceylon schoolboy cricketer in 1956 and Charlie Joseph another cricketer of St. Anthony's too achieving the same for two years subsequently. In 1956 St. Antony's introduced Rugby football, the first captain being Bruce Winter.

Later on St. Antony's College produced the bowling spinning trio who played for the national cricket team in Muttiah Muralitharan, Ruwan Kalpage and Piyal Wijetunga. Muralitharan the pride of St. Anthony's College who plays for the current national cricket team has gone on to become the bowling legend of the cricketing world with a haul of over 700 Test wickets, a continuing world record.

The legendary cricketers such as A.C.M. Lafir, Mahesh Gunatilake, Ben Navaratne all who played cricket for the national team were Antonian cricketers. Why this school was dedicated to St. Anthony specially, remains a mystery in the annals of history.

Easter Plays: Origin and Development

The variety characteristic of the colourful liturgical rituals of the Catholic Church after the end of the period of Persecution in the early part of the 4th century AD. offered fertile ground for the development of dramatic representations of the basic tenets of Christian beliefs especially the Birth, Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

During the fifth century, stories from the Bible were enacted in the Church in live tableaux with singing or chanting. There is evidence to show that sometime before the tenth century certain playlets were emerging out of the growing embellishment and elaborations (tropes) in the liturgy of the Church.

Poetry, music and sacred texts were blended especially during the celebration of the Holy Mass at Christmas and Easter. During the divine services priests mimed representations of the birth of Jesus and the three women (all with the name of Mary) who went to the Sepulchre where Jesus was buried, while the choir sang antiphonies. In addition to the usual dialogue between the celebrant and the rest of the congregation including the choir, the text of the Gospel offered enough opportunities for theatre and drama.

In the tenth century, one comes across a verse (trope) sung as entrance hymn for Holy Mass on Easter Sunday. It was in the form of questions and answers and began with "quem quaeritis in sepulchro, o christicolae, Jesum Nazarenum, o coelicolae...". It is in Latin and means, "whom seek ye, oh Christians, Jesus the Nazarene, oh celestials". This was a dialogue between the angels and the three Marys.

The verse continues with the news that Jesus had risen and that they had to go and announce this. This concept was gradually connected with the Descent from the cross and there followed an elaborate dramatic scene. On Good Friday, after the usual services, a crucifix was placed at a spot representing the grave of Jesus near the altar.

On Ester Sunday morning, after the recital of the official morning prayers, one or two sacred ministers (clerics) wearing long white vestment (alb) carried palms to the place where the crucifix was earlier placed and sat down there.

Three other ministers, representing the three women (Mary) and wearing long cloak-like vestment (cope), carried small vessels in which incense is burnt, joined them. Upon their arrival at the spot, the question was posed: whom seek ye? The three answered: Jesus of Nazareth.

They were told then: he is not here; he is risen as he had foretold. Hence, (go and) announce that he has risen from the grave. They then intoned, "He has risen, as the Lord had said. Alleluia" This was followed by the classic Thanksgiving Hymn., Te deum laudamus (We priase thee, Lord).

This simple dramatic acting and singing was elaborated by many texts from the Bible, hymns (especially, Victimae Pascali) and few extra scenes such as John and Peter running to the grave and the appearance of the risen Christ.

By the eleventh century, the singing during the sacred services began to be accompanied by short dialogues. Some biblical stories such as the Fall of man, Daniel in lion's den and death and resurrection of Jesus, among others, were acted out in the Church by priests.

These "performances" were called liturgical plays and in course of time they became more elaborate, lavish and popular. At this point, not only Latin but even the vernacular was used and the performers were not only priests but also the common people.

Already in the thirteenth century the short chanted Easter drama contained elements of theatre and drama such as: dialogue in prose and poetry, different actions performed by different sacred ministers and the accompaniment of rich music led by the choir.

It was widely believed that this dramatized liturgy served better the purpose of presenting the story of Easter by appealing to the senses than by mere delivering of sermons.

According to one authority, there were in all 224 Easter Plays, most of which were found in Germany and the rest in France, Italy, Spain, Holland and England. As these plays became popular, priests added new scenes, some very imaginative such as the character of Pilate, of soldiers guarding the sepulcher and of an ointment-vendor bargaining with the three women (Mary) to sell his product.

As these plays became more and more attuned to the popular expectations of worldly entertainment and amusement, it became necessary to separate these from the divine services held in the church.

There exist fragments of two Latin Easter plays: the first in the monastery of Benedictbeurn and the second in that of Klosterneuburg.

In the Easter Play of Trier, German translations were added to the original texts in Latin and in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Easter Plays came to be written entirely in German. Strolling players who popularized this play, brought in other mundane characters: a servant and an ointment vendor who also entertained the people with crude and cheap jests. Thus Easter Play in Latin and German existed side-by-side, both seemingly under the control of priests.

During this lengthy period of changes, two important developments were taking place. People were thirsting to hear and meditate on the suffering and death of Christ. Having this as its main subject, Passion Plays started to enter the arena of world theatre progressively as a theatrical presentation standing on its own merit.

It is recorded that the first Passion Play was performed around 1200 AD at Sienna in Italy. In 1244 AD, both plays, the Passion and the Resurrection, were performed together at Padua in Italy.

Hardly one hears of a major production of Resurrection play in Sri Lanka. Thus it is interesting to document that in 1970, in the parish of Urumpiray in the diocese of Jaffna, a Resurrection Play called "Truth-Conqueror of Death" (Cavai venra Cattiyan) was staged by the Centre for Performing Arts with a cast of nearly one hundred and fifty actors and a few dozens of musicians, technicians and helpers.

It was in fact a sequel to a Passion Play held on Palm Sunday a week earlier on the same stage.

The full story of Jesus after his resurrection till the descent of the Holy Spirit was acted out in three acts with thirteen scenes lasting nearly three hours. It was performed on a massive stage extending to more than fifty metres in length with a lofty balcony for Pilate. Artistes of CP Arts used huge settings to give the audience the feeling of being in the city of Jerusalem.

The haunting music and the meaningful songs evoked emotions of wonder and admiration at the flow of the events in the story of the risen Christ.

Though it was performed only once, more than seven thousand spectators were present for the play.

One many say in sum that even in Sri Lanka, Easter Plays down the centuries have left their imprints.

Centenary celebrations of Christian Reformed Church, Dehiwela :1908-2008

The Christian Reformed Church (formerly Dutch Reformed Church) at Station Road, Dehiwela commemorates the centenary of its Ministry on May 31, 2008.

Christian Reformed Church, Dehiwela

It all began with a request for private Communion. Early in 1908, the Revd. David Tweed was called upon to administer private Communion to the aged mother of Dr. Collin Rodrigo at 'Carlyn House', Station Road, Dehiwela. Due to unforseen circumstances, Revd.

Tweed was prevented from going and arranged for the Revd. William Sinclair to go instead. From this visit originated the idea of starting ministry in the Dehiwela area. Both Revd. Sinclair and Dr. Rodrigo visited nearly 80 homes within the Dehiwela area and were well received. So much so, that arrangements were made to conduct a service on Sunday the 31st of May, 1908 at the residence of Dr. Rodrigo.

A few weeks later, feeling the need for music to enhance the worship, the venue was shifted to the residence of Mr. J. Martin Foenander at 'Sunbeam Lodge', Gregory Place, Dehiwela. Worship services were conducted by the Rev. Sinclair, Mr. J. C. Jansz and Mr. Linden de Zilwa.

In its early days, the Church at Dehiwela was known as the 'Mission Hall' and came under the supervision of the Wolvendhal Local Consistory. A special committee was appointed by this Consistory to supervise the work and comprised the Revd David Tweed, the Rev. William Sinclair, the Revd L. A. Joseph and Mr. P. D. A. Mack. The Sunday School which also had its origin at the same time - met at the residence of Mr. J. M. Foenander at 2.45 p.m. with Mr. Linden de Zilwa as the first Superintendent. He was assisted by Miss Hilda VanderWert, Miss Hetty Collette, Miss Cora Foenander and Mr. Eveyln Mack.

Enthusiasm was so great that members began to think in terms of a day school to cater to the needs of the children in the area. The initiative was taken by Miss Cora Foenander and in November, 1908, a school of small proportions was started in the home of Mr. J. M. Foenander.

Thus in one place, there as a church, Sunday school and day school. In 1909, the Consistory obtained the use of the land belonging to Mr. W. C. Bastiansz on Station Road and put up a cadjan structure to house the school, which had grown in numbers.

Within five years another move was made to a similar building on a land purchased by the General Consistory. This Mission hall continued to serve for worship services, Sunday school and day school sessions, till a more suitable hall was constructed in 1915. In 1917 a free Sinhala day school was started by the Revd Alan Vandergert.

A house for the resident Pastor was purchased in 1919 and served as the 'Manse' till 1972, when part of this property was sold to the Salvation Army.

A new 'Manse' was erected in the remaining property in 1975. In 1927, through the enthusiastic and energetic efforts of the Revd Abraham de Klerk (a young Minister/Missionary from the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa), building funds were collected, which resulted in the construction of the present edifice.

The dedication service was to take place on the 7th of May 1927, but in the hour of his triumph, Revd De Klerk fell ill and passed away on the 15th of May, 1927. He was only 27 years old. The dedication service finally took place on the 2nd of June, 1927. In South Africa, this Church is affectionately referred to as the 'De Klerk Church'.

Four storeyed building for De Mazenod silver jubilee

A four storied building was constructed at a cost of Rs. 40 million to mark the Silver Jubilee of De Mazenod College, Kandana. Chief Guest, Vice. General of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, Rev. Brother Thomas Johnson (fsc) opened the new building and is seen here cutting the ribbon.

Rev. Brother Thomas Johnson (fsc) opens the new building.

General Councillors, Rev. Brother David Hawke (fsc), Rev. Brother Jorge Gellardo (fsc) from overseas, Provincial visitor of the La Sallian Brothers of Sri Lanka, Rev Brother Henry Dissanayake and Rev. Brother Bertram Perera, Rector of the College are also in the picture.

"Computer Technology is a vital requirement in today's world and to provide this necessity to the school is a cause for joy. It is your duty to see that children are brought up as good citizens in this beautiful Sri Lanka; said the Chief Guest addressing the gathering at the opening ceremony.

He further stated that" happy to be invited to grace this historic occasion in Sri Lanka. Today happens to be the Birthday of Saint John de Baptist Lasalle. I am very happy to observe OMI Fathers and La Sallian Brothers working together in harmony. I am also thankful to all those who worked tirelessly to achieve this goal", he said.

"The building of the Institute of Higher Private Education was erected by the Management of La Sallian Brothers to commemorate the Silver Jubilee and was officially declared open today", said the College Rector, Rev. Br. Bertram Perera addressing the gathering.

He also said that all the educational needs could be fulfilled under this roof, and that they had made arrangements to cater to the children with all modern technology.

He conveyed his thanks and appreciation to the old boys for their untiring efforts, Dudley Vaas Associates and Isuru Constructors for their support, and also Rev. Brother Denzil Perera, Principal of the Primary Section; Rev. Brother Conson Johnson, General of the Christian Schools in the Asia Pacific Ocean who is a frequent visitor to Sri Lanka, Rev. Brother David Hawke and Jorge Gellardo who are great benefactors and also to Rev. Fr. Romould Fernando (OMI) who initiated to transfer the school which was operating elsewhere, to the present location, with 300 students on-roll.

From there onwards college progressed gradually in all fields including sports and is now among one of the Leading Colleges in the Island. Rev. Brother Henry Dissanayake, Camillus Silva also addressed the gathering.

May Day Holy Mass at ANCL

Rev. Fr. Derinton Subasinha, Lecturer, St. Aloysius Seminary celebrates the Holy Mass. Prasad Polwatta, DGM Finance and representatives from ANCL Buddhist and Hindu Societies also participated.



Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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