Bishop-elect Jude Nisantha Silva, of Badulla diocese in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka, wants to focus his ministry on interreligious dialogue and upliftment of tea plantation workers.
Father Echchampulle Arachchige Jude Nisantha Silva was named the new bishop of Badulla by Pope Francis on January 30.
He is known for helping marginalized tea plantation workers as the director of the Uva Socio-Economic and Community Development Center.
Tea plantations contribute 20 per cent to the economy of Badulla, which is also the capital of Uva province. But the tea plantation workers live in utter poverty, living on less than $2.67 a day.
Bishop Silva said, “people used to eat three meals a day but, due to the impact of current economic crisis on plantation workers, they are limited to one meal a day.”
In the 1820s, the British brought migrant Indian workers from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka because the highlands lacked cheap labour. Plantation workers from India made up 7 per cent of Sri Lanka's population at the turn of the century after thousands of expatriates arrived.
While the end product's value is high due to branding and marketing, tea workers are placed at the bottom of the value chain since more than half are landless women.
Nilani Fernando, a teacher from Badulla diocese said the new bishop would be an asset to the missionary Church.
"In the diocese, most people suffer from extreme poverty, and they hope the new bishop will address their problems. Farmers in the diocese are also struggling," Fernando said.
The yield from paddy cultivation may fall by 50 per cent this season, due to rice yellowing. However, the authorities have failed to provide proper solutions, she said.
Another key issue for Bishop-elect Jude Nisantha Silva is inter-religious dialogue in the multi-ethnic diocese.
Bishop-elect Silva hopes to promote interfaith harmony in the diocese by working with Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim leaders, through interfaith committees in every parish with religious leaders.
Bishop-elect Silva was born on May 5, 1970, in Moratuwa near the capital Colombo and he was ordained a priest on October 2, 2001.
Prior to being elected bishop, he served as a judicial vicar and director of a diocesan Caritas program.
The new Bishop had been appointed by the Pope following the resignation of Bishop Julian Winston Fernando as the Bishop of Badulla for age limit in accordance with Canon Law.
The episcopal ordination and installation of the new bishop will be held on April 22 at St. Mary's Cathedral in Badulla.
Badulla diocese has 1,651,000 residents, of which 22,000 are Catholics in 19 parishes.
The diocese of Badulla was established in 1972, and its former bishops were Bishop D. Leo Nanayakkara O.S.B. Bishop Edmund J. Fernando, and Bishop Julian Winston Sebastian Fernando, S.S.S.
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