Pope to Religious Leaders: 'Religion Must Never Be Used to Justify Violence'

Meets With Representatives of the Major Religious Faiths in Sri Lanka

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Pope Francis was welcomed by religious leaders during an interreligious meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, today on the first day of his Asia trip. Among those present were representatives of the various religions present in the country including Buddhism, Hinduism, Muslim and Christianity.

Upon entering the Badaranaike International Conference Hall, the Pope was welcomed with the sounds of horns and drums from the traditional Sri Lankan Hevisi orchestra. Bishop Cletus Perera, the chairman of the Catholic National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, welcomed the Holy Father for his visit to the country.

“Most Holy Father, all right-thinking people clearly observe that, within the short period of your Pontificate, you have impressed the world society and have captured the hearts of many millions of people of various religious and ethnic denominations,” he said.

Several of the representatives of the major religions addressed words of welcome and prayers for the Holy Father. After his welcome address in Hindi, Kurakkal Suwami Sommasundaram gave the Pope a gold-colored prayer shawl, placing it over his shoulders.

An address and blessing was also given by the Muslim representative, Maulawi Sheikh M.F.M. Fazil. During his address, Sheikh Fazil welcomed the Pope on behalf of Sri Lankan Muslims as well as stressing the importance of dialogue among different faiths. The Muslim representative recalled an event in Islamic history, when a delegation of Christians from Najran were granted a space to pray in the mosque of Medina.

“This gives a beautiful message to unite and build coexistence, especially [for] religious leaders and dignitaries,” he said.

Sheikh Fazil also strongly denounced attacks carried out in France and Pakistan, saying that terrorists and extremists have used religion “as a shelter to cover their own deeds.”

“We hope the visit of Your Holiness will build new bridges of coexistence in our land and in the world to build a beautiful place for mankind,” he concluded.

Spirit of respect and cooperation

In his address, Pope Francis thanked the religious leaders for their welcome and expressed his gratitude for their prayers and blessings.

Recalling previous visits to Sri Lanka by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, the Holy Father said the purpose of his visit was to “demonstrate the great love and concern which the Catholic Church has for Sri Lanka.”

“It is a particular grace for me to visit the Catholic community here, to confirm them in their Christian faith, to pray with them and to share their joys and sufferings,” he said. “It is equally a grace to be with all of you, men and women of these great religious traditions, who share with us a desire for wisdom, truth and holiness.”

The 78-year-old Pontiff reaffirmed the Church’s respect for other religions as highlighted by the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostra Aetate.

“It is in this spirit of respect that the Catholic Church desires to cooperate with you, and with all people of good will, in seeking the welfare of all Sri Lankans. I hope that my visit will help to encourage and deepen the various forms of interreligious and ecumenical cooperation which have been undertaken in recent years.”

Dialogue and reconciliation

While noting the positive developments in interreligious and ecumenical relations in the country, the Pope stressed its significance given Sri Lanka’s history of civil war. Healing and unity, he said, is what is needed at this moment.

“Surely the fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation, and indeed the whole human family,” the Pope said. “It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.”

The Holy Father went on to say that the spirit of cooperation between the various religious communities will contribute to rebuilding the moral foundations of society and as a sign of reconciliation among Sri Lankans.  He also denounced the use of religion in justifying acts of war and violence against people.

“For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war,” he said. We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.

Concluding his address, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to the religious leaders and conveyed his hope that the meeting would confirm their efforts to live in harmony and peace. console.log("Prueba"); jQuery('').insertAfter("article.post.type-post.status-publish").css({'display': 'block', 'width' : '100%', 'height' : 'auto', 'margin-bottom' : '1.5px' }); /* Multiple style */

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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