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Pope visits Shrine where thousands took refuge during Sri Lanka's civil war

2015-01-14

This site, in Sri Lanka,  is a powerful symbol of reconciliation. That's why Pope Francis decided to pray here, in the Shrine of Madhu. 

As the country suffered its civil war, it was here where thousands of people, from both sides of the conflict, found refuge. The civil war ended in 2009. Since then the shrine has turned into a symbol of peace, prayer and reconciliation for people of all faiths in the country. 

As the Pope made his way in the popemobile, there were endearing moments, like this one, where an elderly woman was moved after she greeted Pope Francis. 

JOSEPH RAYAPPU
Bishop of Mannar (Sri Lanka)
"This shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary had fostered the faith and the devotion of all our dear people from all over the country regardless off all differences of race, religion or language”


The Pope recognized the suffering and pain the country is still dealing with. He called on Our Lady to give Sri Lankans the grace to repent and start anew. 

POPE FRANCIS
"Only then can we receive the grace to approach one another in true contrition, offering and seeking true forgiveness.”



Without repentance, he explained, there is no forgiveness. So, the first step in rebuilding the country, is all about repentance. 

POPE FRANCIS 
"Yet only when we come to understand, in the light of the Cross, the evil we are capable of, and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance.”


The country's 25 year civil war was between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. It left more than 100,000 people dead. Even though Christians only make about seven percent of the population, their presence is key. Especially, because Christians include people from both the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. In fact the Pope's speech was translated into the country's two native languages. 

Another moving moment was when during the Lord' Prayer, pilgrims raised their rosaries. 


The Pope blessed them with the iconic image of Our Lady of Madhu, and he placed a rosary. He also held this other statue in his hands, as he listened to the ending prayer hymns. 



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