Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Blessed Joseph Vaz, 'the Apostle of Sri Lanka', will be a saint, the Holy See announced today. Pope Francis approved the vote by the ordinary session of cardinals and bishops in favour of the canonisation of the Indian-born priest and decided to summon a consistory shortly.
Within the Church of Sri Lanka, some hope to see the canonisation ceremony take place during the apostolic visit by Pope Francis in Sri Lanka next January.
Born in Benaulin (now in the Indian state of Goa) in 1651, Joseph Vaz became a priest in 1676 in the Congregation of Saint Philip (Filippo) Neri. As a missionary, he travelled to Ceylon, present-day Sri Lanka, where the Dutch East Indies Company had expelled Catholic missionaries and threatened to execute any priest found on the island.
Operating underground, Fr Vaz helped local Catholics, travelling as far as Colombo, the capital. One of his most important deeds was to translate the Gospel in the country's two languages, Tamil and Sinhala.
He died in Kandy on 16 January 1711 and was beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II on 21 January 1995, during his apostolic visit to Sri Lanka. On that occasion, the pope described Fr Vaz as the 'Apostle of Sri Lanka'.