Sri Lanka: Priest dies alongside refugees

picture: Caritas

picture: Caritas

Accompanying his people trapped in the “no Fire Zone” to the very end, Father Mariampillai Sarathjeevan, aged 41, died of a heart attack just as the last refugees left the war zone. Fr Sarathjeevan, a priest from the diocese of Jaffna, was struck down on 18 May, the day the war between the army and the Tamil Tigers ended and only hours after the army took complete control of the area.

A parish priest in Kilinochchi and coordinator of the Jesuit Rehabilitation Service for the diocese of Jaffna, Fr Sarathjeevan was one of seven priests who stayed with those prevented from leaving the coastal strip of the Nanthi Kadal lagoon. He had not left their side since the beginning of military operations in Vanni. He died on the side of the road, exhausted by months of hardship and deprivation under constant shelling. AsiaNews has reported that although he was transported to hospital in Vavuniya nothing could be done to save him. From this city where the majority of the 280,000 refugees of war are gathered, the body of Father Sarathjeevan was brought to Colombo for transfer to Jaffna for the funeral.

Yesterday, fellow priests, sisters and religious from Jaffna together with members of Caritas Sedec bade farewell to Fr Sarathjeevan, first in a private Mass, celebrated by Fr James Pathinathan in Tamil and later in special prayers led by Mgr Oswald Gomis, Bishop of Colombo. Father David Manuelpillai told thecongregation that “in the last few days Fr Sarathjeevan was deeply concerned he could no longer say Mass, obliged to live in a bunker without food or water. In the end, when he was finally able to leave these desperate conditions he could bear the agony of his people no more and his heart gave way”.

Source: Vatican Radio

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