Relaymedia

Pope Francis Agrees to Sri Lanka Trip, to Honor 123 Korean Martyrs

( [email protected] ) Feb 10, 2014 01:45 PM EST
Pope Francis has told people from Sri Lanka residing in Italy that he wished to take up an invitation to visit their nation, where the wounds of civil war nevertheless needed to heal.

Pope Francis has told people from Sri Lanka residing in Italy that he wished to take up an invitation to visit their nation, where the wounds of civil war nevertheless needed to heal.

On Saturday he met a group of Sri Lankan pilgrims, guided by the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who presented the invitation.

He answered: "I thank Cardinal Ranjith for the invitation to visit Sri Lanka. I welcome this invitation and I think the Lord will grant us the grace."

"Your homeland is called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, on account of its natural beauty and its shape. They say that the pearl is formed from the tears of the oyster," he said.

"Unfortunately, many tears have been shed in recent years, on account of the internal conflict which caused so many victims and so much damage.

"It is not easy, I know, to heal the wounds and cooperate with yesterday's enemy to build tomorrow together, but it is the only path that gives hope for the future."

A projected 6 percent of Sri Lanka's populace are Roman Catholic

The Vatican said in a statement that the beatification rite for Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 fellow martyrs - who were all killed for their Catholic beliefs between 1791 and 1888 - will happen in South Korea on August 15.

Last month, after the Vatican said Francis was considering a trip to South Korea to concur in mid-August with Asian Youth Day, the rite could well be attended by the pontiff himself.

In addition, on Saturday the pontiff gathered with a group of Sri Lankan immigrants residing in Italy and welcomed an invitation to visit Sri Lanka, without however pointing out when the trip might take place.

Francis has made reconciliation a subject of his nearly year-old papacy.

With the Philippines the most distinguished exception, Catholics in Asia have long been a minority. But the Vatican identifies the Asia continent as a community for strong growth.

Pope Francis referred to Sri Lanka's civil war when he told his audience that "many tears have been shed in recent years, on account of the internal conflict which caused so many victims and so much damage."

He persuaded Sri Lankans to take up the hard challenge of healing wounds and uniting "with yesterday's enemy to build tomorrow together."

Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, Sri Lanka's cardinal, took the occasion to request an invitation for the pope to visit the cardinal's homeland.

Francis also thanked the archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, for an call to visit the island nation.

"I accept it and believe the Lord will give us this grace," the Pope said, without elaborating.

Asia has repetitively been tipped as a goal for possible papal trips as Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI did not take a trip there during his eight-year pontificate and preaching in the area is a top priority for the Vatican.

The pope's only open scheduled trip this 2014 is a three-day pilgrimage to West Bank, Jordan and Israel in late May.