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Sri Lanka pope’s first Asian stop

COLOMBO (SE): The first Asian visit by Pope Francis will be Sri Lanka, according to an announcement made by Father Benedict Joseph in Colombo on September 7.

News LK reported that Father Joseph, who is a spokesperson for the archdiocese, as saying that the pope has accepted an invitation to visit the country and that dates would be set soon.

The visit has already been approved by the Sri Lankan Bishops’ Conference, which has issued a formal invitation and Father Joseph has said that Pope Francis indicated his willingness to come.

An invitation from the government, which is also necessary for the pope to set foot on Sri Lankan soil, was issued by the president of the country, Mahinda Rajapaksa, on August 2.

The president said in his letter, “Since Your Holiness was elected as the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church in March this year, the people of Sri Lanka have witnessed the humility, compassion, wisdom and devotion with which Your Holiness has been conducting papal duties.”

The president continues, “The Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has played a pivotal role over the years in improving the lives of the citizenry, particularly in the fields of education, healthcare and social service, and the Church’s services for acceleration of post-conflict reconstruction, reconciliation and restoration of livelihoods of affected communities are well recognised.”

He added, “On behalf of the government and the people of Sri Lanka, I consider it a great privilege and an honour to extend to Your Holiness an invitation to undertake a visit to this beautiful country, which only recently emerged from three decades of conflict.”

He said that it would be a momentous occasion for the people of the country.

 

It will be the third papal visit to the country. Pope Paul VI was there in 1970 and Pope John Paul II in 1995 to preside over the beatification of Sri Lankan missionary, Father Joseph Vaz. Sri Lanka and the Holy See established formal diplomatic relations in 1976.

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