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Pope announces possible trip to Sri Lanka


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday met with a group of Sri Lankan immigrants living in Italy. The group had come to Rome on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the consecration of the Church in Sri Lanka to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The group was led by the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith. In his address to the pilgrims, Pope Francis greeted Cardinal Ranjith, and thanked him for an invitation to visit Sri Lanka. “I welcome this invitation,” the Pope said, “and I think the Lord will grant us the grace.”

The Holy Father recalled the circumstances that led to the consecration of Sri Lanka to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the midst of the dangers of the Second World War, the Archbishop of Colombo, Jean-Marie Masson, vowed to build a shrine to the Madonna if the island-nation were preserved from foreign invasion. After the war, in fulfilment of the vow, the Church in Sri Lanka built the Shrine of Our Lady of Lanka at Tewatte (outside the capital Colombo).

“Our Lady is always close to us,” the Pope said, “she looks upon each one of us with maternal love and accompanies us always on our journey. Do not hesitate to turn to her for every need, especially when the burden of life with all its problems makes itself felt.”

Pope Francis spoke about the conflicts that Sri Lanka has faced in recent years. “Your homeland is called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, on account of its natural beauty and its shape. They say that the pearl is formed from the tears of the oyster. Unfortunately, many tears have been shed in recent years, on account of the internal conflict which caused so many victims and so much damage.” He spoke about the need for reconciliation: “It is not easy, I know, to heal the wounds and cooperate with yesterday’s enemy to build tomorrow together, but it is the only path that gives hope for the future, for development and for peace.”

Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis assured the pilgrims of his prayers, entrusting them “to the maternal intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lanka.”

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Below, please find the complete text of Pope Francis’ address to the group from Sri Lanka:

I greet you, dear brothers and sisters of the Sri Lankan community in Italy! I extend fraternal greetings to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the other Bishops of your homeland. And I thank Cardinal Ranjith for the invitation to visit Sri Lanka. I welcome this invitation, and I think the Lord will grant us the grace.

You have come on pilgrimage to Rome to render homage to Our Lady, at the end of the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the consecration to her of the Church in Sri Lanka.

Seventy-five years ago, the dark clouds of what would be the second world conflict were thickening in the skies and the faithful, guided by a sure intuition of faith, entrusted themselves to Our Lady, who always defends her children from dangers. In 1940, in the dramatic circumstances of the war, the Archbishop of Colombo, Mgr Jean-Marie Masson, of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, made a vow to build a shrine in honour of Our Lady if the island were preserved from foreign invasion. So it came about, and after the end of the war the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Lanka at Tewatte was built, and was consecrated forty years ago.

Dear brothers and sisters, Our Lady is always close to us, she looks upon each one of us with maternal love and accompanies us always on our journey. Do not hesitate to turn to her for every need, especially when the burden of life with all its problems makes itself felt.

Your homeland is called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, on account of its natural beauty and its shape. They say that the pearl is formed from the tears of the oyster. Unfortunately, many tears have been shed in recent years, on account of the internal conflict which caused so many victims and so much damage. It is not easy, I know, to heal the wounds and cooperate with yesterday’s enemy to build tomorrow together, but it is the only path that gives hope for the future, hope for development and hope for peace. For this reason, I assure you that you have a particular place in my prayer. I ask the Lord to grant you the gift of peace and reconciliation, and to help you in your effort to ensure a better future for all who live in Sri Lanka.

I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lanka. I ask you to pray for me and from my heart I bless you.