Sri Lankan Amputee Meets Pope

Receives Prosthetic Limbs Through Solidarity Campaign

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2009 ( An 18-year-old Sri Lankan youth who lost his arms and legs had a wish come true today as he met and spoke personally with Benedict XVI.

Rajiv Janine, whose limbs were amputated after a rail accident, was able to meet with the Pope after the general audience at the Pontiff’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

Janine told the Holy Father his story, and asked for a blessing on himself and his brother, who will soon be ordained a priest, and his sister, who is a religious in the Philippines. Another sister was with him to assist him on the trip to Italy.

The youth stood with prosthetic limbs, bought with money raised by a solidarity campaign in Italy, L’Osservatore Romano reported.

The Vatican newspaper reported that this campaign was initiated by an Italian priest, Father Giuseppe Iasso, pastor in Mercogliano, in the Avellino province of Southern Italy.

For 25 years he has been promoting initiatives like this to help the needy in Sri Lanka.

Father Iasso told the newspaper that over the years they have been working in two villages to advance interreligious dialogue among the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims.

He noted that they have been collaborating closely with the civil and religious authorities in supporting schools and hospitals in the area.

Exceptional generosity

The priest affirmed that these projects have been made possible thanks to many Italians whose generosity “reached exceptional levels” after the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in 2004.

He stated that the money for Janine had been collected by sending letters and knocking on the doors of parishes and families.

In the end, Father Iasso reported, an amount of 40,000 euro [$57,000] was gathered, from many benefactors, including children who emptied their banks and one elderly woman in a wheelchair who gave up her life savings.

After this successful campaign, the priest wrote to the Pontiff in order to tell him about Janine.

“I opened my priestly heart to the Pope,” Father Iasso said, and Benedict XVI expressed the desire to receive this youth personally “in order to encourage him.”

The priest concluded, “The testimony of Rajiv, with his serenity in spite of the pain and disability, is an invitation for all who suffer to not be discouraged and to never lose hope.”

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