Diversity is not a threat
· The Pope's first addresses in Colombo ·
Pope Francis arrived in Sri Lanka at 8:50 am local time on Tuesday, 13 January. A welcome ceremony took place at the International Airport of Colombo, where the Pope was welcomed by the newly-elected President of the Republic, Maithripala Sirisena.
Responding to the President's greeting, Francis underlined the essential pastoral nature of his visit, calling the country to move beyond rivalries and discord and to promote reconciliation and peace for the country. “As the universal pastor of the Catholic Church,” he said, “I have come to meet, encourage and pray with the Catholic people of this island. A highlight of this visit will be the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, whose example of Christian charity and respect for all people, regardless of ethnicity or religion, continues to inspire and teach us today. But my visit is also meant to express the Church’s love and concern for all Sri Lankans, and to confirm the desire of the Catholic community to be an active participant in the life of this society”.
In the afternoon, the Pope met with members of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo. There, the Pope called for everyone to live together in harmony without forsaking “their identity, whether ethnic or religious” and not to allow religious beliefs “ to be abused in the cause of violence and war”.
“May the growing spirit of cooperation between the leaders of the various religious communities find expression in a commitment to put reconciliation among all Sri Lankans at the heart of every effort to renew society and its institutions. For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war. We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.”
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