Priests learn to talk the Tamil talk

Communications the focus for Sinhala clergy in Sri Lanka diocese

Priests learn to talk the Tamil talk
Bishop Valence Mendis reporter, Chilaw, Sri Lanka

February 9, 2011

A bishop in Sri Lanka is encouraging Sinhalese seminarians and priests to learn the Tamil language because many in his diocese cannot communicate fluently with its population. Bishop Warnakulasuriya Devsritha Valence Mendis of Chilaw diocese, said pastoral services are beginning to suffer because there are a declining number of priests and seminarians who can speak Tamil.“So I’ve been sending young priests to serve in Tamil-speaking parishes in Trincomalee – Batticaloa diocese,” he said. A long stay in these parishes will enable priests and seminarians to learn Tamil and speak it more fluently and to work closely with Tamil-speaking people, he added. About 50 percent of the people in the diocese speak Tamil, including a high proportion of Catholics. “Many priests don’t know the language and those that do often don’t speak it and therefore forget,” said a lay Catholic. The diocese has received a number of complaints from Tamils about how badly their language is spoken and words pronounced by priests, said a priest who asked not to be named. Knowing colloquialisms, correct expressions, pronouncing words well and increasing their communicative ability, will help them in their future pastoral work, said Joseph Jesus, a parishioner from Our Lady of Presentation Church in Marawila. “I’ve also instructed Mass to be conducted in Tamil once a week at the seminary,” Bishop Mendis added. Four young priests were recently sent to serve in Trincomalee – Batticaloa diocese as assistant parish priests. One of them, Father Arosh Priyanga, is serving in Kinniya parish in Trincomalee. “After working with Tamils I understand the importance of speaking their language. It brings you closer to them and provides a solid foundation face the future with them,” he said. Related reports Sri Lankan conference promotes Tamil revival Most Colombo churches now hold Tamil Masses Priests honored for saving Tamil language SR13198.1640