Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith will hold televised prayers and make a special vow to Our Lady of Lanka at the National Basilica in Tewatta, Ragama, on April 3. (Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP)
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has promised the faithful that he will make a vow to Mother Mary to save Sri Lanka from coronavirus. "I will be making a special vow to Our Lady of Lanka (Mother Mary) to protect our country from coronavirus at 11am on April 3," said Cardinal Ranjith after a televised Mass on March 29. "So, when your church rings the bell at 11am, you as a family go to the sacred place of your home where you have your daily prayers and silently pray to join with me in that moment." The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka had called on all Catholics to observe a day of fasting and prayer on March 22 to protect and heal all people in all countries and to rid the world of this devastating virus. Cardinal Ranjith, who is the archbishop of Colombo, said all churches will ring their bells at 11am that day. He will hold televised prayers and make a special vow to Our Lady of Lanka at the National Basilica in Tewatta, Ragama.
“We pray that the Blessed Mother will help us to get over these problems of the coronavirus, not only in our country but also the whole world," the cardinal said. At the start of World War II, Oblate Archbishop Jean Marie Masson, the last Frenchman to be metropolitan of the country, made a vow to build a National Basilica shrine in honor of Our Lady in Tewatta if the country was spared from the ravages of war. Cardinal Thomas Benjamin Cooray kept the vow and built the beautiful National Basilica. Mary Cicilia, whose son has been working in Verona in virus-stricken Italy, said families would join Cardinal Ranjith in his vow. "Our families are suffering from the worst tragedy and we live with fear in our day-to-day lives when we hear the news from Italy. We all pray to God," said Cicilia, 58, a member of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Negombo. The Sri Lanka Air Force has built a 15-room facility to keep suspected coronavirus patients under observation. The army operates 45 quarantine centers. Nearly 3,500 people including 31 foreigners have been under quarantine. Caritas Sethsarana, the social arm of the Catholic Church in Colombo Archdiocese, is distributing dry ration parcels among needy families during curfew time. Sri Lanka reported its first Covid-19 death on March 28, with confirmed cases standing at 117 on March 30. Six districts have been identified as high-risk areas, so a curfew will continue until further notice. The country's airports are closed for arrivals of flights until April 7. The Church canceled public Masses and other services from March 15 because of a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases. The decision came in the middle of the Lenten season that features common gatherings such as the Way of the Cross, Lenten pilgrimages, group prayer services, Holy Hour and passion plays. Cardinal Ranjith announced that Holy Week services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday will be closed to the public but will be broadcast on radio and television.
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