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Bethlehem Catholics seek return of ‘Our Lady of Madhu statue’ to shrine

The Catholic Community in Bethlehem said yesterday that it was ‘deeply concerned’ about the LTTE’s shifting of the highly venerated statue of our Lady of Madhu and appealed to the leaders of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka "to persuade LTTE" to return the statue to its original shrine.

"It is with great sorrow that we learn of this venerated statue of our Lady if Madhu being used as a shield by the radical group called the LTTE in Sri Lanka," the Community said in a statement.

The statue, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Sri Lanka said, had been shifted to safety on April 4.

It was taken by a group on the instructions of Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph to a church deeper in the LTTE-held territory, causing concern to thousands of devotees.

The LTTE was occupying Madhu at that time. However, on April 25, the troops liberated the shrine from the clutches of the LTTE and after making certain there would be no way for the enemy to return, themselves vacated the shrine. Therefore the shrine is now a de-militarized zone and this was what the Bishops’ Conference had sought for the Statue’s return.

Full text of the statement issued by the Bethlehem Catholic Community: "We the undersigned members of the Catholic community in Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus Christ are deeply concerned about the reported shifting of the highly venerated statue of Our Lady of Madhu to an area 70 kilometer inside the jungle not accessible to the devotees. It is with great sorrow that we also learn of this venerated statue

of Our Lady of Madhu being used as a shield by the radical group called LTTE in Sri Lanka.

In view of the fact that the government of Sri Lanka has given the assurance that this shrine would be protected as in the past we appeal to the leaders of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka to persuade LTTE leaders to return the statue to its original shrine so that it would be accessible to the devotees who belong to all religions in the island. As we understand this statue end the shrine is a national heritage and should be protected by all irrespective of faith or ethnic identity.

Therefore, we of the Catholic community in Bethlehem in Palestine appeal once again to all parties concerned to protect this venerated statue of Our Lady of Madhu and place it in its historical site so that devotees from all over the world could worship as in the past."

 


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