Pope Makes 2 Unscheduled Stops on Final Day in Sri Lanka

Meets With Former President and Bishops, Visits Buddhist Temple

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On his final day in Sri Lanka, Pope Francis made two unscheduled stops upon his return from the Marian shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Madhu.

The Holy Father first stopped at the Apostolic Nunciature in Colombo where he met with former Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. The former head of state, who was accompanied by his brother and their respective spouses, had invited the Pope to visit the country during a visit to the Vatican last year.

Rajapaksa was defeated in presidential elections just last week.

The Pope held a private meeting with them before then making an unscheduled visit to the Mahabodhi Buddhist temple in Colombo.

During a press conference in Colombo, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed the visit to journalists, adding that the Holy Father accepted an invitation to the temple by Venerable Banagala Upatissa Nayaka Thero, a leading Buddhist monk at the temple. The monk extended the invitation during Tuesday’s interreligious meeting in Colombo.

The Pope’s visit is the second visit in history by a Roman Pontiff to a Buddhist temple, the first being made by St. John Paul II during a visit to a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand in 1984.

Fr. Lombardi confirmed that it was not a time of prayer for the Pope, but that he listened to the monks with respect.

The Holy See Press Office also stated that the Pope wished to honor his meeting with Sri Lankan bishops. Francis was originally scheduled to meet with them the day of his arrival but, due to scheduling delays, the meeting was cancelled.

The Holy Father met with the prelates at the Archbishopric of Colombo and spent some time with them before returning to the Apostolic Nunciature in the evening.

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Junno Arocho Esteves

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

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