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Marcelline Jayakody

Fr. Marcelline Jayakody (Sinhala: මර්සලින් ජයකොඩි පියතුමා) (3 June 1902 ─ January 15, 1998) was a Sri Lankan Catholic priest, musician, lyricist, author and journalist and an exponent of indigenous culture. He is attributed with the epithet ‘පන්සලේ පියතුමා’ (Pansale Piyathuma – Priest in the Temple). Ven. Dr. Ittapane Dhammalankara Thera authored a book on the life of Fr. Mercelline Jayakody, ‘මල් පැලේ උපන් පන්සලේ පියතුමා’ (‘Malpale Upan Pansale Piyathuma’) which is recorded as the first book in the world by a Buddhist prelate on a Catholic priest.

Passion Play of Duwa

Fr. Jayakody served as the head priest in Duwa in 1939. Duwa is the Passion Play Village of Sri Lanka. Originally, the play used traditional puppets as actors for the Duwa Passion play. Jayakody wrote the original script for a Passion play, influenced by Fr. Jacome Gonsalves, and composed new hymns to the traditional “Pasan”. He next introduced live male and female actors instead of puppets. Eventually there were over 250 live actors taking the place of puppets in his adaptation of Dorothy L. Sayers’s The Man Born to be King [Dukprathi Prasangaya in Sinhala]. The Duwa passion play was considered as the greatest Passion show in Asia at that time.

Awards

  • In 1979 his poetry book Muthu (pearls) won the National State Literary Award (the first Catholic priest to have won a state award).
  • In 1982 he was honoured with the title “Kalasuri” by the State, and “Kithu Nandana Pranamaya” by the Catholic Church for his contributions to arts and culture for over six decades.
  • In 1983 he won the “Ramon Magsaysay Award” considered the Asian Nobel Prize, (along with $US20,000 a Medal and a Citation) in Manila, Philippines in the category of Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts (JLCCA) as appeared on the List of Ramon Magsaysay Award winners.

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