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  Priests in Sri Lanka face dilemma after release
 
COLOMBO, AUGUST 29 (UCAN) -- The five Catholic priests just released from refugee camps in the north are weighing whether they should return to the camps to serve there or work in parishes as their bishops have asked.

"It is an ethical dilemma," acknowledged one of them, Father E.S.C. Mariathas, parish priest of St Anne's Church in Mullaitivu, who spoke to UCA News over the phone.

Father Anthony Victor Sosai, vicar general of Mannar diocese, likewise described the priests as "now in a dilemma about their future." He confirmed that the bishops of Jaffna and Mannar had asked the priests to take other assignments.

The five, released on August 26, are mentally and physically drained, he added. "They are still haunted by images of death and destruction from the war."

Released with them on August 26, by government order, were 177 Hindu priests and their families, and two Catholic nuns. They were freed from camps in and near Vavuniya where about 300,000 Tamil civilians are still detained while the military screens them for possible connections to defeated Tamil rebels.

Father Mariathas and three of the other priests -- Father A.A. Amalrajah of St Mary's Church in Pooneryn, Father Anton Stephen of St Anthony's Church in Thalaiady and Oblate Father Alfred Vijeya Kamalan of Amaithy Thenral, a Church-run institution in Mullaitivu -- all worked in Jaffna diocese. Father Francis Jude Gnanaraj Croos of St Francis Xavier's church in Alkaddively, Mannar diocese, was the other priest released.

Oblate Father S.E. Reginald, who served in a counseling center in Kilinochchi, Jaffna diocese, is still in a refugee camp, although authorities have not explained why.

There is also uncertainty surrounding the fate of an elderly priest, Father G.A. Francis Joseph, who has been missing since the final stage of fighting, which ended three months ago, when tens of thousands were displaced. He had been working in a church at Ampalkulam in Kilinochchi. There still has been no news of him, said Father R.G Vijintus, secretary to the bishop of Jaffna.

The two nuns who were released, Sisters Joseph Ruparani and Thamian Immanuel Kumuthini of the Franciscan Missionaries of Peace, are now working with sick children who lost their parents in the war.
 
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