Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan 15, 2014 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics in Sri Lanka are celebrating the reception of a reliquary containing a fragment of the arm of St. Sebastian, a martyr of the third century.
On Jan. 12, Cardinal Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo received the relics at the city's airport, accompanied by officials of the diocesan curia, priests, and Catholic members of the Sri Lankan parliament.
The reliquary was brought to Colombo by Msgr. Neville Perera, and was a gift from the administrator of the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, Msgr. Enzo Poyiana, who received it from Narbonne, the birthplace of St. Sebastian.
Cardinal Ranjith led a prayer service at the Colombo airport following Msgr. Perera's arrival, and from Colombo led a procession to the St. Sebastian Shrine in Kandana, a suburb, where the relic will be kept for veneration.
The procession was accompanied by mounted policemen and a marching band, and flowers were sprinkled from helicopters above the pilgrimage. It was met along the way by crowds venerating the relic and welcoming St. Sebastian with flowers; the procession stopped in several places to allow for extended veneration of his relic.
On arriving at Kandana, the relic was enthroned at the shrine and Mass was said by Cardinal Ranjith.
The St. Sebastian Shrine is preparing to celebrate its 150th jubilee in 2018, focusing on both renovation of the shrine building and the spiritual and material edification of the impoverished people of Kandana.
The shrine hosts daily Masses, perpetual novenas to St. Sebastian and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and weekly reflections on the Sunday Mass readings.
The arrival of the relic of St. Sebastian comes shortly before his feast, which is celebrated Jan. 20.
St. Sebastian was martyred during the Diocletian persecution in the late third century, being first shot with many arrows and then beaten to death. He is thus patron of athletes, particularly archers.