.- A landmark 26 foot Thai statue of St. Anne revered by local fishermen was knocked down last week, after being hit by a oil tanker.
The statue depicting St. Anne with the child Mary was located near the pier at Samut Sakhon, a port city on the Bay of Bangkok some 26 miles from the Thai capital. It was hit by an oil tanker Feb. 6, and was knocked down from its perch above the Tha Chin river estuary.
The ship ran directly against the statue around 7 p.m. No one was injured in the accident, even though there are frequently pilgrims around the statue.
“This statue stood tall, acting as a symbol of Catholic faith and a center of interreligious dialogue,” Msgr. Andrew Vissanu Thanya Anan, deputy secretary-general of the Thai bishops’ conference, told CNA.
He added that people all religions, and especially Buddhists and local fishermen, revere St. Anne and held her statue with high regard, often bringing her flowers.
“Fishermen stopped off here, entrusting themselves to St. Anne’s protection before venturing onto the sea.”
Fr. Egitto Anucha Chaowpraeknoi, chaplain of Apostleship of the Sea/Stella Maris Seafarers Association Thailand, told CNA that with the statue’s destruction “people are hurt, but their faith and hope are not destroyed.”
“Generally there are several people around the structure, and it’s miraculous that none were hurt when the mishap occurred.”
The cost of the damage has not yet been established, but investigation into the cause of the collision and the estimated costs is underway.
The Catholic mission at Samut Sakhon was begun in the 1700s to cater to a community of Chinese emigrants, and St. Anne’s parish was built in 1949.
In 2000, St. Anne’s pastor, Fr. Peter Theeraphol Bovithayakul, commissioned a local sculptor, Pravat Raksiam, to design a statue of the parish’s patron to sit atop the parish hall.
The statue was financed by parishioners’ contributions, and was erected in 2009. It was 26 feet tall and weighed 3.8 tons. Its construction took two years and cost nearly $122,000.
Msgr. Vissanu added that the parish serves as a centre for inter-religious dialogue through its school and social center, which serve Burmese refugees, and which collaborates with the local government and Buddhist community.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group from Burma, have been displaced by violence and rioting, with many of them seeking refuge in neighboring Thailand.
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