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Pope Francis meets with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during a private audience at the Vatican

ANSA - ANSA/AP GREGORIO BORGIA / POOL

Pope Meets President of Sri Lanka

During Cordial Discussions Recalling Pontiff’s Visit to Buddhist Nation, Attention Drawn to Importance of Interreligious Dialogue

This morning, Pope Francis received the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, in the Vatican.

According to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, the discussions were cordial and began with a recollection of the Holy Father’s visit to Sri Lanka last January. Marking his second Apostolic Visit to Asia after having visited South Korea in August 2014, Pope Francis visited the Philippines and Sri Lanka, Jan. 12-19, 2015.

The talks, the statement noted, “focused on certain aspects of the country’s recent history and the process of peace and reconciliation that is underway, with the hope that it may contribute to promoting stable social harmony,” and underscored “the contribution of the Catholic Church in various sectors of society and the importance of interreligious dialogue.”

There was also an exchange of opinions on the theme of the environment and an evaluation of the results of the conference on climate change, which recently concluded in Paris.

After meeting with the Holy Father, the Sri Lankan president subsequently met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

Sri Lanka is officially Buddhist, with about 70% of the population professing that religion. Another 12.6% are Hindu and 9.7% are Muslim. Catholics make up about 6% of the population and another 1% profess other Christian creeds. 

The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, though a small minority, has a unique role in the country, since Catholics come from both the main ethnic groups, the Sinhalese and Tamils. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist, while most Tamils are Muslim and Hindu, but the Sinhalese and Tamils who are Catholic worship together. (D.C.L.)

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