Sri Lankan President Visits Pontiff

Discuss How to Bring Island to Peace

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2008 ( According to Benedict XVI and the Sri Lankan president, in order for the nation to achieve peace, citizens’ basic needs must be met and a path of dialogue must be consolidated.

This was one of the points of discussion today when Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the Pope in the Vatican. The South Asian leader went on to meet with the Holy Father’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

According to a Vatican communiqué: «The cordial discussions took into consideration the present situation in Sri Lanka in order to underline the necessity of meeting the basic needs of the deeply affected civilian population and consolidating the path of dialogue and negotiation, which is the only way to reach a just and lasting political solution to the ongoing conflict.

«The hope was also expressed that the Catholic Church would continue to enjoy the full right to religious freedom, thus enabling her to make a significant contribution to the life of the country through her religious witness, her educational, health care and charitable initiatives, and her commitment to work for the common good, reconciliation and peace.»

Sri Lanka continues to endure a 25-year-old ethnic conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Government forces withdrew from a ceasefire last January.

The nation has some 21 million inhabitants, most of whom are Buddhist. Christians of all confessions make up just 6.2% of the population.

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