(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday morning, beginning the first leg of a week-long visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Below, please find the full text and audio of the Holy Father’s remarks at the arrival ceremony at the international airport of the Sri Lankan capital.
It would be important for the Pope not to be carried away too much with election celebrations, which is predominantly Sinhalese feeling. I hope the Pope will be able to address key issues related Tamils and Muslims, which have not been addressed by the President Sirisena’s manifesto. This will include processes towards power sharing and addressing serious violations of human rights and humanitarian laws. President Sirisena’s past conduct and that of some of his allies, which have been very nationalist and pro-war, anti-minority, doesn’t give Tamils and Muslims much confidence and hope even in the new government. Clearly, it was their desperate need to get rid of Rajapakse family rule that led them to vote for Sirisena.
Despite protests from Roman Catholic leaders, Pope Francis has remained committed to his planned three-day trip to Sri Lanka on Jan. 13. The visit takes place five days after the country’s election, and some fear the results could end in violence.
A number of prominent Roman Catholic priests and laypeople in Sri Lanka are appealing to Pope Francis to put off a scheduled visit, saying the government is using the occasion as propaganda to imply the pope’s support for President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is seeking an unprecedented third term in office.
“Don’t force political issues on the Pope, don’t use his visit to Sri Lanka for political ends”: the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, sent out a clear appeal to the Sri Lankan government and the opposition. Francis’ visit to the country (13-15 January 2015) comes right before the presidential elections. Given how heated the situation there is, the Pope’s visit could easily be exploited for the purposes of propaganda, particularly by the government. The wounds of civil war are still fresh, there are still tensions between the Sinhalese and the Tamils and Buddhist fundamentalism and nationalism is ever present. The Sri Lankan Church has asked for the suspension of rallies and other initiatives linked to the election campaigns during Francis’ three-day visit to the island.”
In his trip to Sri Lanka, that will take place between the 13th and the 15th of January 2015, before proceeding to the Philippines, Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu and will thus be the first Pope in history to set foot in a territory where most inhabitants are Tamil. Francis chooses to touch on the sore point of the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people that devastated the island for 26 years (1983-2009) and has left deep wounds.
Pope Francis will travel to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January for his second trip to a continent where evangelisation is a big priority for the Catholic Church, the Vatican said on Tuesday.