Navy readies Asian Theological College for papal visit


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The navy has renovated chapel of ‘Our Lady of Lanka’ as well as teacher training school at Bolawalana, Negombo that had been in a dilapidated condition to coincide with Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka. The Pope is scheduled to visit the chapel on the morning of January 15 before leaving Sri Lanka.

Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando, Director, National Catholic Center for Social Communications yesterday told The Island that the teacher training school had been converted to Asian Theological College.

Responding to a query by The Island, navy headquarters said that a naval contingent undertook the project in Dec 2013 on a Defence Ministry directive that the military would help restore places of religious worship as well as other buildings in dilapidated state.

A senior navy official said that a contingent of about 130 personnel had been involved in the project funded by the Catholic Church. Responding to a query, the official said that personnel from the volunteer branch as well as regular contributed to the successful project. "We are in the process of completing the project," the official said, adding that the navy had built accommodation blocks and director’s quarters.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on January 13.

The SLAF also contributed to the Bolawalana project.

The navy said that since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, it had completed several successful building projects.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that the armed forces had recruited as many as 50,000 youth to take on building projects. Rajapaksa said they had been taken especially for the task, therefore allegations that fighting units were being assigned for civilian projects weren’t true. The Defence Secretary said that they had been used in many parts of the country, including in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

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