Sri Lanka mourns prelate who ‘led post-tsunami recovery’

Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis also established schools and colleges across the country

COLOMBO – Retired Sri Lankan archbishop Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis, who served as the general secretary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) and on the board of directors of Radio Veritas died on Feb. 3 at a private hospital in Colombo after a long illness. He was 90.

Archbishop Gomis  was buried at St. Lucia Cathedral in Colombo on Monday (6) after a requiem Mass concelebrated by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and other bishops.

The prelate had been a bishop for 41 years in Colombo archdiocese and Anuradhapura diocese and led Church efforts in rebuilding homes and providing livelihoods after the country was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

White flags were raised in Catholic schools, institutions, homes and churches as a mark of respect to the late archbishop.

Archbishop Gomis, a former chancellor of Colombo University and the Aquinas Institute of Higher Education, served education by opening new schools and giving scholarships to numerous children.

Cardinal Ranjith, while receiving his body at the Bishop’s House in Colombo, said Archbishop Gomis contributed greatly to education in Sri Lanka.

“He also performed great service as the editor of Gnanartha Pradeepaya [Lamp of Wisdom], a Catholic weekly,” he said.

In order to help children in remote villages he started branches of established Church-run colleges such as Loyola College-Bopitiya, Holy Cross-Payagala, Christ the King College, St. Peter’s College-Gampaha, St. Joseph College in other parts of the country.

The Gnanartha Pradeepaya, which he edited, is the oldest Sinhala language Catholic weekly in the country and has been in existence for more than 150 years.

The prelate was also involved in various aid schemes including the construction of houses for tsunami victims and donated a health center to his hometown of Kelaniya.

Through his intervention, a series of carvings depicting the country’s Catholic history was completed in the Tewatta Basilica, in Colombo. He was also the designer of Sri Lanka’s Catholic flag.

Kaveesha Sadani, a teacher, said the prelate wrote extensively in both Sinhalese and English for daily and weekend newspapers and published a large number of books.

He also worked to build a close association with Buddhist monks and was concerned about the national unity of the country, Sadani said.

Archbishop Gomis was born in 1932 and was ordained a priest at St. Lucia’s Cathedral in 1958. His episcopal ordination was in 1968 and he completed his undergraduate studies in theology and philosophy at the Ampitiya National Seminary, Kandy, and later received his master’s degree from Adamson University in the Philippines.

The late archbishop also served as a lecturer at St. Aloysius Seminary, Colombo. From 1961 to 1968, and as the director and editor of the Colombo Catholic Press.

He was a member of the board of directors of Radio Veritas and also became the first Catholic priest to hold the title of vice-chancellor of a University in Sri Lanka.

The prelate was conferred with an honorary Ph.D. by Fu Jen University in Taiwan in recognition of his services to social communications and education in Asia.




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