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Pope to visit Sri Lanka: A look at the role faith plays in the country's outlook on life

2015-01-04

As part of his first apostolic trip of 2015, Pope Francis will visit Sri Lanka from January 13-15 before heading off to the Phillipines for a few days. 

Sri Lanka has a population of roughly 20 million people, about 1 million is Catholic. In fact Christianity arrived in the midst of wars, disasters and even colonizations by the Portuguese, Dutch and British empires.

FR. RUBAN FERNANDO
Sri Lankan priest 
"When the Portuguese came to our country, almost all the coastal area of Sri Lanka, we were converted into Catholicism. Afterwards, we were colonized by the Dutch. At that time the Sri Lankan Church underwent a lot of persecutions. Churches were demolished and the people were again taken from their faith, tortured, and a lot of people faced a lot of problems professing their faith publicly.”

A priest from the 17th century, Blessed Joseph Vaz, who was a missionary priest from India had a key role in promoting the faith. He will be canonized by Pope Francis on January 14th, making him Sri Lanka's first saint. 

FR. RUBAN FERNANDO
Sri Lankan priest
"From him we received the faith. He came from India and he converted. He went on foot all throughout Sri Lanka and he converted a lot of people into Catholicism.”

Despite years of wars and natural disasters like the tsunami that struck back in 2004, the country remained resilient, finding strength in faith. 

FR. RUBAN FERNANDO
Sri Lankan priest
"In the war, the only thing that the people sustained and brought back from their suffering is only the faith. When we asked people if they brought anything, they said 'No, we did not bring anything. We brought only the Bible, we brought only the rosary, we brought only the prayer book. That's enough for us, that's all that saved us.'”

This will be the Sri Lanka's second papal visit. Saint John Paul II visited the country in 1995.


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