Colombo, Sri Lanka: The visit of Pope Francis to Sri Lanka that started after his landing in Colombo is giving a mood of festivity to entire Sri Lanka irrespective of religious divide, reports Dispatch News Desk news agency.
Pope Francis is on his six-day visit of Asia and he asked his followers to respect humanity while addressing briefly at airport this morning. The Pope will travel to the Philippines for to celebrate open-air masses during his trip. As many as 20,000 security personnel are deployed during his visit to Colombo.
Pope delivered a brief speech at Colombo international airport after his landingand said that peace could be found by “cultivating those virtues which fosterreconciliation, solidarity and peace”.
He expressed his prayers for Sri Lanka and suggesting the newly-elected President to work for promoting human dignity, respect for human rights and to include each member of society into development of society and the country.
Colombo is giving a look of a sheer festivity and a giant stage has been installed at the Galle Face Green where the pope is expected to draw the largest crowd. More than 500 Buddhist monks, Hindu and Muslim leaders and non-Catholic church officials will greet Pope Francis when he addresses an interreligious meeting his first evening in the country.
While talking to national media, Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka said that this is a historic visit and everybody is trying best to make it memorable.
Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Vaz on January 14 at Galle Face Green — the same place where St. John Paul II beatified him in 1995. A half a million people are expected for the Mass.
After the canonization, Pope Francis will fly to the Marian shrine of Madhu, about 170 miles north of Colombo, where he will meet victims of the ethnic war after praying the rosary at the shrine.
It may be mentioned that Catholics fled following persecution of Catholics and Dutch Calvinists in the 1600s and they carried the statue of Mary with them and some of them built the Madhu church that has become the biggest pilgrim center in Sri Lanka. During the closing stage of the protracted war in 2008, the historic statue had to be removed from the shrine when it came under crossfire.
The Sri Lankan government has provided hundreds of state buses to to transport Catholics to canonization.
Sri Lankan government is running special trains service for pilgrims and special trains from Bandarawela, Jaffna, Kandy, Puttalam, Chilaw, Kurunegala, Avissawella, Galle, Matara and Aluthgama to Colombo Fort will run to cater people.
On the 14th, the Pope will conduct a morning service at the Galle Face Green. He will then fly to Mannar for a service at the Madhu Church. On Thursday the 15th he will visit Negombo and then fly off.
Tentative time line of Pope meetings
13:15 – Meeting with the Bishops of Sri Lanka at the Archbishop’s House, Colombo – 08
17:00 – Courtesy Visit to the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka at the President’s House.
18:15 – Inter-religious Meeting at the Bandaranaike Memorial InternationalConference Hall (BMICH) Colombo.
Affected areas: Negombo Road (morning), Borella (afternoon), Fort (around 5), BMICH (around 6).
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
08:30 – Celebration of Holy Eucharist and Canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz in Galle Face Green Colombo
14:00 – Departure to Madhu Shrine
15:30 – Marian Prayer at the Shrine of our Lady of Rosary of Madhu
16:45 – Departure to Colombo
Thursday, January 15, 2015
08:15 – Visit to the Chapel of the “Benedict XVI Cultural Institute” at Bolawalana
08:45 – Farewell ceremony at the Colombo International Airport, Katunayake
09:00 – Departure from Colombo to Manila.