Mar 16, Colombo: Over 6,000 Sri Lankan ad Indian devotees including clergy from Sri Lanka and India attended the annual feast of the St Anthony's Church in Katchatheevu Island this morning, the Sri Lankan Navy said.
Navy media spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya said about 3,100 Indian devotees have arrived by 95 vessels in the island located in Sri Lanka's northern waters.
Pastor of the Delft mission Rev. Father Amalraj Gnanaprakasan and pastor of the Rameshwaram mission Rev. Father Sabaira delivered service at the feast.
Under the direction of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development and the supervision of Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Sri Lanka Navy facilitated the conduct of the annual feast.
The Sri Lankan Navy provided all infrastructure facilities, including installation of sanitary and drinking water facilities to the attendees.
Temporary Jetties were made ready for people to secure their boats conveniently. Special Navy life saving and medical teams were deployed to ensure the safety of the devotees attending the annual festival. The Navy said it also supplied meals to the devotees as a gesture of goodwill.
Speaking at the feast, the Navy Commander Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage thanked the priests from India and Sri Lanka for their appreciation of the Sri Lanka Navy's efforts to create a bridge of brotherhood and cooperation across the Palk Strait between the two neighboring countries.
The devotees from India continued to attend the festivities of the St. Anthony's Church which was established in 1905. The practice was interrupted during the three-decade long conflict during which the public was not allowed to visit the island due to security situation.
India ceded the uninhabited island to Sri Lanka in 1974 but the South Indian Tamil Nadu state politicians demand the central government to take the island back.
Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Daya Rathnayake, Director General of Sri Lanka Coast Guard Rear Admiral Ravindra C. Wijegunaratne, Commander Northern Naval Area, Rear Admiral Sarath Dissanayake, Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Udaya Perera and several senior security officials also attended the mass.