03/13/2013, 00.00
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Card. Ranjith: the Church in the service of peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka (Profile)

Benedict XVI held the archbishop of Colombo in high esteem. For four years, he served in the Vatican as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He took over the Archdiocese in 2009, a few months after the end of the country's civil war.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Card Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the 66-year-old archbishop of Colombo and president of the Catholic Bishop' Conference of Sri Lanka, has a long record of accomplishments. He was nuncio in Indonesia and served as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. With such a background, he is believed to have an outside chance to become the next bishop of Rome.

The cardinal was born on 15 November 1947 in Polgahawela, Diocese of Kurunegala, and was ordained priest by Paul VI in 1975. This was followed by his ordination as auxiliary bishop of Colombo in 1991.

In 1995, he became the bishop of Ratnapura. Six years later, in 2001, he was appointed the post of adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In 2004-2005, he served as apostolic nuncio to Indonesia.

Holding Card Ranjith in high esteem, Benedict XVI called him to the Vatican in 2005 to serve as the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

After four years, the prelate was back home in Sri Lanka to take up new responsibilities as the ninth archbishop of Colombo.

During his inauguration ceremony, he called on all Sri Lankans-Tamils, Sinhalese, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and political leaders-to come together to build "true peace and reconciliation" for the sake of the country after 30 years of bloodshed and civil war.

In his speech in Sinhala and Tamil, he also addressed Buddhist monks in attendance, expressing his "total solidarity" with the country's majority religion.

When Benedict XVI created 24 new cardinals on 20 November 2010, Card Ranjith was the only Asian among them and the second Sri Lankan clergyman to don a cardinal vestment after Card Thomas Benjamin Cooray (1901-1988). News about his appointment was met with favour among ordinary Sri Lankans.

The Archdiocese of Colombo is home to 657,000 Catholics out of a total population of 5.7 million. Overall, Catholics represent 7 per cent of the island nation's population of some 20 million people.

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