The 9e October 2021, the Vatican announced the appointment of Rt. Rev. Dr Valence Mendis (Bishop of Chilaw) as Bishop of Kandy by His Holiness Pope Francis, succeeding Bishop Vianney Fernando on his retirement after a long episcopate very successful and record over 38 years. Its installation as 7e Bishop of Kandy will take place on the 17the January 2022 at St. Anthony’s Cathedral in Kandy in a ceremony presided over by Bishop Vianney, after which he will simultaneously lead the Diocese of Chilaw as apostolic administrator.
Bishop Valence is no stranger to Kandy. Shortly after his priestly ordination for the diocese of Chilaw on the 20the July 1985 it was given as “priest fidei donum” (ie temporarily “loaned”) to the Diocese of Kandy by the late Bishop Frank Marcus Fernando, for a period of two years. This was in response to a request made by Bishop Vianney for a young priest to overcome a crisis resulting from a shortage of priests in the diocese of Kandy. Thus, the 15e August 1985, feast of the Assumption of Our Lady in Heaven, a young, handsome and pleasant priest celebrated mass at 5.30 p.m. at Saint Anthony’s Cathedral in Kandy. The Holy Mass was uplifting and the sermon was inspiring and the inhabitants of Kandy immediately fell in love with this young priest whom the then parish priest, the late Fr. Gregory Fernando, presented as “Fr. Valence Mendis who was loaned to the diocese of Kandy by the Bishop of Chilaw for a short period ”.
Impressed both by his abilities and by his priestly commitment, Bishop Vianney recommended to Bishop Frank Marcus in early 1987 that Father Valence should pursue higher studies. This was readily accepted by Bishop Frank Marcus who extended his stay in the Diocese of Kandy by two years so that he could read for a master’s degree at Peradeniya University.
He transferred as Pastor of Padiwatte in 1987, where he effectively used his talents and managed his time to nurture the parish and build a vibrant community while pursuing his academic career.
During this time, he also used his talents as a musician, lyricist and singer. His melodious interpretation of his own composition “wdor foú iñf | a“ (Aadara Devi Saminde) in the very first audio cassette produced by the Diocese of Kandy in 1987 to commemorate the tercentenary of the arrival of Saint Joseph Vaz to Sri Lanka in 1687 and the centenary of the diocese, is still fresh in people’s minds. (In recognition of her contribution to the production of the cassette, Bishop Vianney decided to appoint her “wdor foú iñf | a“.
He reached out to everyone without any form of favoritism or discrimination. For him, all were children of God. He did not condemn the rich, but inspired them to care for the needy and the oppressed. By his actions and his persuasion, and his inspiring and meaningful sermons, he has shown that one can work for the upliftment of the poor as well as against injustice and abuse without being portrayed as a revolutionary. When it came to serving the poor or anyone in need, he always advised people to reach out to them – (“go the extra mile for the good of others” was his favorite saying), and his advice were well understood by people. because he practiced what he preached. Special mention must be made of how he guided and protected the youth of Padiwatte Parish (both Catholic and Buddhist) during the turbulent period of youth unrest and violence in 1988/1989.
He presented his thesis on “Ritual in Buddhism” and obtained a Master of Arts in Comparative Religion from the University of Peradeniya in 1989.
His brief stay of two and a half years as parish priest of Padiwatte culminated in the very significant celebration of the 35e Anniversary of the Shrine of Fatima (the only Marian Shrine in the diocese of Kandy) in October 1989. At the end of the celebrations, Bishop Vianney publicly thanked him for his services to the diocese and announced that he would henceforth return to the diocese of Chilaw.
In fact, when Bishop Vianney thanked Bishop Franck Marcus for giving him a very good priest, he said: “when I give, I give my best”. Upon his return to the Diocese of Chilaw, Bishop Frank Marcus decided that his talents should be used to train, guide and shape future priests in Sri Lanka. Thus began his career at the National Seminary of Ampitiya, in October 1989.
From the National Seminary he went to Rome in September 1992 to prepare a doctorate in philosophy at the Urban University. I realized the importance of his doctoral thesis (Philosophy of creation in Saint Thomas Aquinas: MAKING GOD INTELLIGIBLE TO NON-THESISTS “), only when I heard the Abbot General of the Sylvestro-Benedictine Congregation at the time say to him in June 1993: “Young man, you have chosen a daring subject for your thesis. I wish you good luck! ”After successfully defending his doctoral thesis within two years, he returned to the National Seminary in October 1994 and was appointed Dean of Philosophy. When a decision was made by The Episcopal Conference to house the philosophy students in a separate location, he was given the task of overseeing the design and construction of the new complex.The magnificent complex housing the Philosopher is sufficient proof of his versatility.
After serving the National Seminary as the first director of Philosphate (from October 2000) and subsequently as rector (from 4e February 2001), he was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of Chilaw on 2sd April 2005. He succeeds Mgr Frank Marcus as Bishop of Chilaw when he retires on the 28th.e October 2006.
Her deep spirituality centered on Christ and her devotion to Mother Mary and to the Saints are worthy of emulation. His is a spirituality which is a combination of prayer and action – a spirituality based on Jesus’ message of love and concern not only for the poor, the needy and the oppressed, but for all peoples.
Unity and charity are two words that are very dear to him, two virtues that he practices a lot. He is a fervent promoter of unity in families, in communities, in parishes and also between people of different cultures, ethnicities and beliefs. Charity, he practices until the end. Therefore, it was no wonder that he chose as his currency “UNITE OMNES IN CARITATE” (that is, to unite all in charity). Indeed, his motto is a faithful reflection of what he has been and of his vision for the future.
Until now, Bishop Valence has headed the diocese of Chilaw for 15 years. For the sake of brevity, his many works for the spiritual nourishment and social upliftment of his flock are not listed here. Suffice it to mention that his commitment to justice, peace and other social issues has blended wonderfully with the ultimate goal of proclaiming Jesus Christ and his message of love and peace.
He is smiling even in times of crisis. He personifies the servant who doubled his talents for his master (as mentioned in Jesus’ parable – Matthew 25: 14-30) because he continues to make full use of his gifts for the sake of Christ, his Church and his people. He put the needs of the Church above all else when he acceded to the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Keeping two dioceses simultaneously is not an easy task. Yet his zeal and commitment combined with his total trust and faith in God through the intercession of Mother Mary and the saints will surely help him to be a true shepherd – a shepherd of the heart of God (cf. Jeremiah 3: 15).
The Diocese of Kandy is fortunate to have in Bishop Valence a worthy successor to Bishop Vianney as the seventh bishop, and it has the unique peculiarity of succeeding two learned and highly respected bishops of Sri Lanka in contemporary times and also to lead simultaneously two important dioceses, Chilaw and Kandy.
Born and raised in Moratuwa; ordained priest for the diocese of Chilaw; years of training as a newly ordained priest in the Diocese of Kandy; assist the Church in Sri Lanka in the orientation and formation of her future priests; returns to the diocese of Chilaw as his shepherd; and now returns to the Diocese of Kandy as its Shepherd while not abandoning the Diocese of Chilaw. The “fidei donum priest” of 1985 becomes bishop of the diocese in 2022! All of this forms God’s mysterious providential plan for all of us – HIS chosen children through our baptism. No wonder God tells us: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways… My thoughts are above your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9) and invites us to place our faith and trust in HIM to: “With God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37).
As Bishop Valence takes over the diocese of Kandy, it is our duty to seek the intercession of Mother Mary and the Saints and to pray that Almighty God will grant him long life, good health, prudence and wisdom so that he may be a good shepherd. to the flock (in the two dioceses of Chilaw and Kandy) entrusted to its care by the Lord.
Ad Multos Anos
in the Lord’s Vineyard and welcome to Kandy, dear Bishop Devasritha Valence Mendis!
Victor Silva (FCA, FCMA, MCIM – Retired)