Pope Francis addressed a group of bishops from Sri Lanka at the Vatican on Saturday, encouraging them to continue their efforts to reconcile and heal the nation which has been plagued by more than 25 years of civil war.
Aware of the suffering and division on the island, the Pontiff offered words of hope: “As the country seeks to come together and heal, the Church is uniquely positioned to provide a living image of unity in the faith.”
Noting the aid that Caritas Sri Lanka gave after the 2004 tsunami, the Holy Father lauded the Church’s charitable work.
Turning to helping the poor, Francis thanked the bishops, in Rome on their ad limina visit, for their continued efforts.
Francis reminded them of what he wrote in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he said “until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence.”
The Holy Father noted the diverse religious traditions of Sri Lanka and discussed the Sri Lankan Church’s contribution to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
Confronted with continuing violence by groups of religious extremists, the Church is “to remain steadfast in seeking partners in peace and interlocutors in dialogue,” he said.
Recalling Church initiatives in the region to develop small, local religious communities, he stressed their twofold value, since they “assure the faithful of the closeness of Christ and his Church to them” and encourage piety.
Recognizing difficulties for families, the Pope said: “War has left many families displaced and grieving the death of those closest to them.”
He added that this presents a “great challenge and increasing reality of mixed marriages, which require greater attention to preparation and assistance to couples in providing for the faith formation of their children.”
In closing, Francis urged bishops to protect Sri Lankan families. (D.C.L.)