Presidential Elections Present Security Concerns for Pope's Visit to Sri Lanka

Some Fear Usual Pre and Post-Campaign Violence in Asian Island

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As the Pope’s second Apostolic Visit to Asia, but first to the Philippines and Sri Lanka approaches, Jan. 13-19, security concerns for the Pope’s visit due to presidential elections in Sri Lanka raise security concerns.

While the Catholic Church is preparing itself for the Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka Jan. 13-15, the nation’s presidential election campaign is underway, reported Fides Monday.

The current president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has been criticized for setting the election just before the Pope’s arrival, especially because observers have said that periods before and after elections in the Asian nation are marked by violence.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, said that in the case of security threats, “the Catholic Church will take necessary measures.”

Yet, the Archbishop of Colombo stressed that he has faith “in human goodness” and in the common sense of the leaders and the people,” noting both candidates hope that the vote is “transparent and free from violence.”

Regardless of who wins the election, the cardinal has called on all citizens and political leaders to be united to welcome the Holy Father. 

Believed to be in response to growing support for his opponent, the current President of Sri Lanka has, if re-elected for a third term, promised two things: to reform the presidency and introduce a new constitution.

The election is set for January 8, 2015, at which time President Ranjith will be running against a former member of the executive led by Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena, who is basing his campaign on a plan of democratic reforms that plans to strengthen the Parliament and reduce presidential powers.

Meanwhile, the Church in Sri Lanka is working to finalize preparations for Pope Francis’ visit. The Holy Father will be in Colombo and in Madhu, the Marian shrine located in the Diocese of Mannar in the north of the island. 

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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