Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pope Francis Arrives in Sri Lanka

Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, arrived in Sri Lanka earlier today, January 13, 2015. The Pope arrived at Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport at about 9am. He was greeted by a party led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

This is the third visit by a Pope to Sri Lanka. The first Pope to arrive in the country was Pope Paul VI, who visited the island in 1970. Pope John Paul II visited the country in January 1995.

Pope Francis was driven in a special motorcade to Colombo on the Colombo-Negombo main road. He will take part in several activities today, including an audience with the President Maithripala Sirisena. The Pope will address an inter-religious meeting in the evening.
The motorcade of Pope Francis at Maradana, Colombo 10 (Pic. Chamara Sumanapala)

Pope Francis will conduct a mass at Galle Face in the morning of January 14 and another mass at the famous Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the former war zone in the afternoon. The Pope is expected to canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz at the mass in Gall Face. He will leave for the Philippines on January 15.

Pope Francis is known as perhaps the most radical of all Popes in the history of the Catholic Church. He is a simple person and a champion of the poor, homeless and the sick. He is the first ever Pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit priest to become Pope. His stance on homosexuals and other social taboos have also been radical for the Catholic Church and have created an unprecedented discourse within the establishment of the Church.

Interestingly, both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II arrived in Sri Lanka within months after changes in governments, and so did Pope Francis. Pope Paul VI arrived in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) on December 4, 1970 and left the country the following day. It was the last leg of a pilgrimage which took him to Iran, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) (stopover in Dacca), Philippines, American Samoa (stopover in Pago Pago), Samoa, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Ceylon. This visit took place months after the change of the government of Ceylon in July.

He was slightly injured in an assassination attempt at Manila Airport on November 27, days before he arrived in Ceylon.

Pope John Paul II arrived in Sri Lanka on January 20, 1995, several months after another government change. He beatified the Apostle of Ceylon Joseph Vaz at a mass held at Galle Face on January 21, 1995.

Pope Francis arrived in the island just days after a government change which saw the election of a new president.

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