The annual two-day festival at St. Anthony’s Church on Katchatheevu islet will be held on 23 and 24 February, according to Indian media reports.

The Jaffna Diocese, which organises the festival, has announced the dates for the festival but has yet to formally extend an invitation to the Verkodu parish in Rameswaram, which organised the Indian pilgrimage for the festival, The Hindu reported.

Rev Fr. Anthonysamy, priest of the Verkodu parish, who is the chief coordinator of the Indian pilgrimage, said that it had been confirmed that the festival would be held on 23 and 24 February but the parish had yet to receive an invitation from the Jaffna diocese.

The parish would seek permission from the district administration for the pilgrimage and invite applications for the pilgrimage once the invitation was received, he said.

The new St. Anthony’s Church in Katchatheevu, built by the Sri Lanka Navy, was bestowed on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jaffna on 23 December 2016.

According to the Verkodu parish priest and chief coordinator of the Indian pilgrimage, a record number of Indian pilgrims had confirmed their participation in the feast this year held on 11 and 12 March.

However, following the arrests of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Rameswaram fishermen decided to boycott the two-day festival.

This time, the fisher folk from the Rameswaram island would take part in the festival as a matter of right, fishermen leader P. Sesu Raja has said. The Church was established by their ancestors and they do not wish to give up their rights over the church, he said.

He said the fishermen, who had made ready a 35-foot teak wood flag mast for the newly built St Antony’s church in the islet by the Jaffna diocese, would take the mast along with them to be given to the church.


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