St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade: A haven of solace | Sunday Observer

St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade: A haven of solace

13 November, 2016

The famous St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, near the Colombo Port has a very interesting history that only a few people know about. During the Dutch period of Ceylon practising Catholicism was forbidden. A priest from Cochin volunteered to serve in Sri Lanka but he couldn’t act as a priest because of persecution. Therefore, he disguised himself as a vendor and sold fish at a boutique in Maliban Street during the day. At night he identified the Catholics, celebrated Mass and made use of the Blessed Sacrament. The Dutch somehow came to know there is a priest hiding and serving the Catholic community in Colombo and they wanted to arrest him. But he escaped with divine providence and he was passing the area called Muhudubodawatte which consisted of a fishing community that included not only Catholics but also Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus.

Sea erosion was a major issue for fishermen during this time and they could not take their boats out to seas or catch fish. People who were here came to know about the priest who was very holy – his name was Father Antonio.

They approached him and asked him to pray for them and told him their problems. Father Antonio came to this place where the present-day shrine has been built and planted a cross and he prayed with the people. They say that he prayed for three days with fasting and penance, and on the third day miraculously sand mountains came up and the sea went back. The people were very happy that their problem was solved. That was the very first miracle that took place in this holy ground.


The Dutch came after hearing the news, and people thought they were coming to arrest the priest, but they came and said ‘thank you’ to the priest. They said that this was a problem even for them and they would grant whatever the people asked. Father Antonio appealed to please help him stay there. He put up a cadjun hut and during the day he sold goods and in the night he celebrated the Blessed Sacrament and the Mass. That was the starting point.

The museum inside the shrine has the deed which was given by the then Governor to the Church. History records that it came from Kochi in Kerala. The name Kochchikade came from Kociawage Kadey which became Kochchikade. The Administrator of the Shrine, Rev. Fr. Jude Fernando says, “We are in line with St. Anthony’s spirit. People of all faiths come here from all over the country and thousands of silent miracles take place. It is a faith experience. This is a house of prayer. We experience God’s love and we share God’s mercy. People of all ages come here to receive God’s mercy.”

The appointment of Administrator is given by the Archbishop and it is a five year term. Fr. Jude Fernando explains about his experience: “I have to be available for the people. That is my first priority. I come across people with different languages, backgrounds, nationalities and religions. It’s a challenging experience. They share their life experiences and their faith. When you are in a parish you have a smaller community, but this is a larger community. It is an honour to be the Administrator here.”

He says he humbly accepts his task which has enriched his life. He further says, “We preach about peace, love and forgiveness, but they tell us about sacrifice.” He also says that it is important to be disciplined and follow the middle path. He is grateful to all the Government officials, and to the Sri Lanka Navy and Police officials who are helping and contributing to maintain the Shrine.

The Shrine comes directly under the Archbishop of Colombo. There is a charity at the Church that feeds about 200 poor people every day. They also conduct free medical camps and grant scholarships to deserving students.

The Shrine, which was visited by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Sri Lanka in 1995, has become a beacon of hope for all Sri Lankans irrespective of community and religion.


Pictures: Mahinda Vithanachchi