Colombo (AsiaNews) – Mgr Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, is the only prelate from Asia among the 24 new cardinals Pope Benedict XVI will nominate on 20 November. The announcement came at the end of today’s general audience. In Sri Lanka, people welcomed the news, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa who offered his congratulations to the new cardinal. AsiaNews spoke to a number of people to see their reaction, Christians and Buddhists as well as Sinhalese and Tamil, in the archdiocese of Colombo.
“I am happy about the appointment of Mgr Ranjith as cardinal,” said Fr Reginald Saparamadu, director of Pontifical Mission Society. “In recent years, he has supported the Pope in defending the faith and the Church.”
For Clifford David, a Christian Tamil who runs a travel agency, the Catholic and other communities in Sri Lanka must continue to pray God that he may guide the archbishop on his path as cardinal and in his ministry as a priest.
Chalani Senadeera, a Catholic and a member of the Holy Childhood community in Wewala, said, “I am very happy to hear that our beloved archbishop will be a cardinal. I think that this is a great occasion for our Church. [. . .] I was one of his students and he was one of the founders of our community. I am happy to pray for him every day.”
Madampagama Assaji Thero, a Buddhist priest and executive secretary of the Inter-Religious Peace Foundation, thanked the Pope for appointing Mgr Ranjith. His elevation is a sign of respect for all religious leaders in Sri Lanka. “When he was bishop in Rathnapura, he did a lot for interfaith dialogue, not only in trying to solve interethnic problems, but also by directly talking to Tamil Tiger leaders.”
Another Buddhist, Ranatunga Anura, a layman and a member of HelpAge, a charity for children and elders, is full of praise for the new cardinal. “I hope Mgr Ranjith will be successful in his new office. [. . .] Even though I am Buddhist, from my young age I used to read Archbishop’s articles, books, etc; he is a wise and skilful religious leader in this country.” In his new capacity, he can pay closer attention to its problems. “I hope that his appointment will lead Sri Lankan authorities on the right path.”
Rev Marimuttu Sathivel, a Tamil Anglican clergyman, also congratulates the archbishop. However, he is critical of what he views as the archbishop’s excessively close relationship with the government. It is his hope that his appointment as a cardinal may provide an opportunity to improve the country’s political situation.
Born in 1947 in a Catholic family in Colombo, Mgr Ranjith studied at the De La Salle College. He entered the major seminary in Kandy in 1966, and later moved to Rome, to further his theological studies at the College of Propaganda Fide.
In 1975, he was ordained into the priesthood by Pope Paul VI. He returned home in 1978 and in July 1991 was appointed auxiliary bishop of Colombo. Three years later, he became the bishop of the new diocese of Ratnapura, a post he held until 1 October 2001 when he was appointed assistant secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
On 29 April 2004, he was appointed apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and East Timor, and became titular archbishop of Umbriatico.
On 10 December 2005, he was named secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In 2009, Pope Benedict appointed him metropolitan archbishop of Colombo. A year later, he became the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka.
Recently, he released a diocesan paper against liturgical abuses in his archdiocese in which he called on the clergy to remain faithful to the correct celebration of the Eucharist and on the men and women religious and the faithful to receive the communion whilst kneeling and into the mouth.