Wednesday, January 14, 2015

His Holiness Pope Francis arrived

Pope Francis who arrived in the country this morning said that he hoped every word and action of Sri Lankan political and religious leaders will make a lasting contribution to the material and spiritual progress of all the Sri Lankans.

Speaking at the Bandaranaike International Airport upon his arrival, the Pope said that promoting human dignity and respect for human rights was also essential as well as improving infrastructures and material needs. “The great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society,” he said.

He said that the diversity was no longer seen as a threat, but as a source of enrichment and therefore people of Sri Lanka must be prepared to accept one another, to respect legitimate diversities, and learn to live as one family. “Whenever people listen to one another humbly and openly, their shared values and aspirations become all the more apparent,” he said. Commenting on the civil war and its aftermath, the Pope saidhe was convinced that the followers of the various religious traditions have an essential role to play in the process of reconciliation and rebuilding which is taking place in the island.

Pope Francis on Tuesday cancelled a planned meeting with Sri Lankan bishops, with one security official saying he was "exhausted" after a long journey from the airport exposed to the hot sun. The 78-year-old, who arrived in Colombo Tuesday on an Asia tour that will also take him to the Philippines, took over an hour to travel into the city from the airport on roads thronged with well-wishers.

The pope travelled in an open-top car with no protection from the strong sun and after a long overnight flight from Rome. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said only that the meeting with the bishops had been cancelled due to the pope's late arrival from the airport. But a source working on security arrangements who asked not to be named told that pontiff looked "exhausted" after his journey. Pope Francis has shunned the pomp of his predecessors, and said earlier this year he prefers not to use the bulletproof "popemobile" favoured by previous pontiffs.

Journalists travelling with him said he appeared on good form during the flight. 

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