In the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, the feast of Saint Anthony is celebrated on June 13th . This year, two of the hallowed shrines dedicated to the saint in Sri Lanka mark historical milestones. The renowned St. Anthony’s Shrine at Kochchikade in Colombo marks the 175th Jubilee whilst the legendary ‘Kale Palliya’ – the shrine of St. Anthony at Palakudah in Talavila observe the 300th Jubilee. St. Anthony is one of the most popular and much loved saints of the Catholic Church. He belonged to the Franciscan order & was a preacher & a theologian in the same order. He was also a close associate of St. francis of Assisi. Though he lived a short life of 36 years, he possessed the science of Angels, the faith of the Patriarchs, the fore-knowledge of the Prophets, the zeal of Apostles and the heroism of Martyrs. Among the many saints, there is scarcely anyone so well-known, so honoured, so popular and so powerful in answering all types of supplications. His feast is celebrated today, the day he met with his holy death.
The Kochchikade Church that marks its 175th anniversary celebrated the festive high mass, officiated by most Rev. Dr. Oswald Gomis, former Arch Bishop of Colombo. A large number of people belonging to all religions participated in the mass. In his sermon the former Arch Bishop explained how the church was set up. In 1687 an Oratorian Fr. Anthonio arrived in the island and felt he should minister to the Catholics in the city. Fr. Anthonio, disguised as a fish monger sheltered in a house. Fr. Anthonio built a small boutique or kade and since the priest himself was from Cochin in India, the place was referred to as Kochchikade – the boutique of Cochin. Tradition accepts that this little hut built by Fr. Anthonio gradually was transformed by the priest into a chapel that could cater to the religious longings of the people. This was the beginning of the Church at Kochchikade.
In August 1990 Archbishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando proclaimed the Church a Shrine. Services were held at the St. Anthony’s church during the past several days to mark it’s 175th anniversary. A notable feature was the participation of people belonging to all religions with the dawn of peace after the elimination of terrorism which prevailed for 30 years.