The Centre has given its nod for participation of 100 fishermen pilgrims from Tamil Nadu in the December 23 consecration ceremony of St Antony’s Church at Katchatheevu. The ceremony, scheduled earlier for December seven, was postponed by Sri Lankan government to December 23 following the demise of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
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As the Centre has granted permission to 100 fishermen from the state to attend the ceremony, the Tamil Nadu government tonight said it would make adequate arrangements for the pilgrims.
Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had on December eight asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to direct the External Affairs Ministry to facilitate the participation of all fishermen devotees from the state intending to participate in the consecration ceremony of the church at Katchatheevu, an islet ceded by India to Sri Lanka in the 1970s.
In the letter, he had urged Modi to instruct Ministry of External Affairs to accord political clearance for the visit of pilgrims to the church without any cap on the number of visitors.
He also recalled that Chief Secretary P Ramamohana Rao had also written to Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar seeking political clearance for upto 100 pilgrims from Rameswaram but the MEA had allowed only 20.
Political clearance accorded for the participation of only 20 persons will disappoint the ardent devotees, he had stated.
He had recalled that his predecessor, the late J Jayalalithaa, had earlier written to him that the construction of the church should be jointly taken up by the Indian and Sri Lankan sides in view of the joint heritage of fishermen from both sides.
The state’s fishermen were “very keen” on protecting their traditional and customary access to this “important place of worship,” he had said.
Though he had stated that no restrictions should be placed on the number of participants, the Centre gave its permission for 100 fishermen to attend the ceremony, official sources said.