Tamil Nadu government on Thursday urged the Centre to allow the state’s fishermen to take part in the December 7 consecration of a church in Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Sri Lanka, and make necessary arrangements, including protection, for them. “Government of India may immediately accord necessary ‘No Objection’ for the fishermen from Tamil Nadu to participate in the consecration ceremony of the new building of the St. Antony’s Church at Katchatheevu,” state Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao said in a letter to Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.
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He pointed out that parish priest of St. Joseph’s Church in Ramanathapuram district Sahayaraj has represented to the District Collector that around 100 devotees from there were keen to attend the function. The priest has requested that necessary arrangements may be made for their participation in the event.
Rao urged the Centre “to provide necessary protection and assistance to the pilgrims from Tamil Nadu,” to participate in the consecration adding “I request your urgent action in the matter.” He said the consecration of church’s new building held “considerable religious and cultural significance” for the fishermen of Tamil Nadu and their participation in the event is their “inalienable right.”
He recalled that the state fishermen had months ago represented that the church’s reconstruction by demolishing it be taken up jointly by India and Sri Lanka in view of the joint heritage of fishermen from both sides. In May last, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the unilateral decision of Srilanka to demolish and reconstruct the St. Antony’s Church without consulting the Tamil Nadu fishermen, he said.
She had pointed out that the St Antony’s Church at Katchatheevu was part of the cultural and religious heritage of the fisherfolk of Tamil Nadu, he said. The fishermen from Rameswram visit the church during the annual festival in Katchatheevu.