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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka mourns film critic priest

Father Ernest Poruthota was famed for his contributions to cinema and disseminating Catholicism

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: June 17, 2020 06:39 AM GMT
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Sri Lanka mourns film critic priest

Father Ernest Poruthota with Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo. (Photo: SIGNIS Sri Lanka)

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A priest famed for his contributions to Sri Lankan cinema and Catholic communications died on June 16.

Father Ernest Poruthota, 88, was born on Aug. 31, 1931, in Marawila and was ordained on Feb. 2, 1957, at St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena, Colombo.

The writer and film critic was credited with a significant contribution to Sinhala cinema. He held the post of director of the Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual (OCIC) from 1972 to 1982 and was chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Movement.

Oblate Father Lal Pushpadewa Fernando, director of the National Commission for Social Communications, said Father Poruthota had encouraged people from all walks of life and with all kinds of talents to strive towards meaningful goals.

"In every field in Sri Lanka, there are persons who have received some guidance from him, and this is especially prominent in fields like mass media, theater, cinema, music, literature, architecture, visual art, photography, sculpture, dancing, priestly and vocation diplomacy," said Father Fernando, president of SIGNIS Sri Lanka and country president of Radio Veritas.

"He meant what he said and said what he meant. He was a man of integrity, originality and authenticity. Father Poruthota was committed to safeguarding the life-giving values of Sinhala culture and absorbing them into Catholic tradition. A Catholic sees beyond the surface of things and sharply penetrates into the deepest core of things. A Catholic has a comprehensive grasp of complete reality.

"What I am now is the result of those who had been before me, and I salute Father Poruthota, my guru who had been in my media journey." 

Father Poruthota was influential in assisting many upcoming filmmakers, especially when he came across Dharmasiri Bandaranayake. "He screened my first film, Hansa Vilak, at the OCIC center in 1979," said the veteran director.

Nilushi Deepthi, a Catholic writer, said Father Poruthota was an outspoken priest. "He loved Sri Lankan cinema and writers. He was also instrumental in bringing the Second Vatican Council to the Sri Lankan Catholic Church," said Deepthi.

Father Poruthota had been receiving treatment at a private hospital at the time of his death. His funeral service will take place on June 18 at 2.30pm at St. Philip Neri Church, Katukurunda.

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