Over 7,500 Sri Lankan and Indian devotees including clergy from Sri Lanka and India attended the annual feast of the St Anthony’s Church in Katchatheevu Island this weekend strengthening Indo-Lanka friendship, the Sri Lankan Navy said.
According to Sri Lanka Navy, 3,248 Indian pilgrims have arrived by 92 vessels to the island located in Sri Lanka’s northern waters to attend the two-day festival, which began on 20 February.
About 4,605 Sri Lankan devotees and clergy participated in the feast.
The Sri Lanka Navy facilitated the conduct of the annual feast on a grand scale. The Way of the Cross and the Holy Mass was held on 20 February, and the Feast Mass was held on 21 February.
The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka has provided Rs. 2.5 million for successful conduct of the event.
The Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, the Commander Northern Naval Area, Rear Admiral Piyal De Silva and several senior naval officers also attended the Mass.
Under the guidance of the Commander Northern Naval Area, the Navy provided meals and all infrastructure facilities, including installation of sanitary and drinking water facilities. Temporary jetties were made ready for people to secure their boats conveniently, and special Sri Lanka Navy lifesaving including medical teams were deployed to ensure the safety of the devotees attending the annual festival.
The pilgrims have said that they were treated well by Sri Lankan authorities and were given snacks and food during the festival.
As per the 1974 and 1976 agreements, India had ceded the island of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka.
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 the security situation.