Colombo (AsiaNews) - "Pope Francis' visit will bring unity and peace to Sri Lanka. You must have faith." These were the words Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo and President of the Episcopal Conference (CBCSL), addressed to the country's Christians in response to a debate that has been sparked by the proximity of Presidential elections to the Pope's apostolic visit. The Bishop entrusted his message yesterday to The Messenger, the country's official Catholic newspaper.
Quoting from some reports regarding speculation in recent weeks around the Papal visit next January, Card. Ranjith said that "the Church must act in faith and go forward with preparations for this historic visit." "There is full cooperation with the government, the police and other parties - he added - to ensure a peaceful environment.
"Some Christian associations have criticized the decision by the outgoing president (and candidate) Mahinda Rajapaksa to bring forward the presidential elections to January 8, just five days before the arrival of Pope Francis. According to these groups, this choice has allowed some politicians to exploit the apostolic visit to their advantage, for example, putting up posters and photomontages with the pontiff. In addition, there is fear that after the vote violence could erupt. For this reason they have reportedly sent a letter to the Pope asking him to postpone his trip.
However, the Archbishop of Colombo pointed out that "both presidential candidates, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisen, have assured the Bishops' Conference that there will be no problems after the vote, and that a peaceful atmosphere will prevail."Card. Ranjith also noted that "the canonization of the Apostle of Sri Lanka, the Blessed Joseph Vaz, and the Holy Father's visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, will help establish unity by bringing the love of God to the people of the north, whose lives have been devastated by thirty years of civil war."