Pope Francis joined pilgrims on Saturday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Church of Sri Lanka’s consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Sri Lankan pilgrims were accompanied by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, as well as several bishops from the island nation.
The Holy Father recalled the island’s consecration, which was the fruit of a vow made by then-Archbishop Jean-Marie Masson of Colombo, who promised to build a shrine to Our Lady if the island were preserved from foreign invasion. Archbishop Masson’s vow was made shortly before World War II began. The shrine, built after the war, was dedicated to Our Lady of Lanka at Tewatte.
“Our Lady is always close to us, she looks upon each one of us with maternal love and accompanies us always on our journey”, the Pope said. “Do not hesitate to turn to her for every need, especially when the burden of life with all its problems makes itself felt”.
Regarding Sri Lanka’s history of internal conflicts, Pope Francis said that while the road to reconciliation with old enemies was hard, it was the only path in creating a future of peace.
“For this reason, I assure you that you have a particular place in my prayer. I ask the Lord to grant you the gift of peace and reconciliation, and to help you in your effort to ensure a better future for all who live in Sri Lanka,” he said.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis entrusted the people of Sri Lanka to the intercession of Mary and asked for their prayers before imparting his blessing. (J.A.E.)