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Pope Francis canonizes Sri Lanka's first Saint and pleads for religious freedom

2015-01-14

Sri Lankan Catholics joyfully welcomed Pope Francis with traditional dances, as he arrived to the park where he was to give their country its first Saint.

The Pope made his way along in his Popemobile, blessing and greeting pilgrims. Eventually, he stopped the car to get closer to a group of sick people.

The ceremony's most anticipated moment was this one, when Blessed Joseph Vaz was declared a Saint.

In his homily, Pope Francis stressed that the new Saint  always worked for peace, putting religious differences aside. He added that this work needs religious freedom.

POPE FRANCIS
"Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Each individual must be free, alone or in association with others, to seek the truth, and to openly express his or her religious convictions, free from intimidation and external compulsion”.

St. Joseph Vaz, the Pope went on, proved that religion can't be used to justify violence, hate and war. Instead, the Pope said, he made peaceful coexistence possible.

POPE FRANCIS
"As the life of Saint Joseph Vaz teaches us, genuine worship of God bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, respect for the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all”.

Pope Francis concluded that all Christians are called to be missionaries, just like the new saint was.

At the end of the Mass, the Archbishop of Colombo gave the Pope $70,000 for charity on behalf of Sri Lanka's Catholics.

CARD. MALCOM RANJITH
Archbishop of Colombo (Sri Lanka)
"Holy Father, we are poor. But in our poverty, we are rich. That's why we have prepared this gift for you. And I want to humbly give it to you, for your charity works.”

Roughly 500,000 people attended the canonization Mass, in a country where Catholics are just the 7% of a 20 million people population.


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