Pope's visit to Sri Lanka and Philippines confirms interest in Asia

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/11/2014 - 13:22

Only the date was missing, and it came by mouth of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo: Pope Francis will visit Sri Lanka from 13 to 15 January next year, as part of a trip to Asia (the second after the one in South Korea from 14 to 18 August) that will also take him to the Philippines (the Archbishop of Manila is the young Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle for whom Pope Francis has also had words of appreciation recently).

It was Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself who confirmed that he want to visit these two countries during the press conference with reporters on the plane that brought him back to Rome from his recent trip to the Holy Land. “With regards to Asia, we are planning two trips”, he said, “This one in South Korea for a meeting with young Asians, and then, in January next year, a two-day trip to Sri Lanka and then in the Philippines, in the area that suffered from the typhoon”.

Pope Francis himself, only a few months before returning from the trip to Brazil for the World Youth Day last summer, explained: “I received an invitation to go to Sri Lanka and also in the Philippines. But I must go to Asia. Because Pope Benedict did not have time to go to Asia, and it is important”.

An official statement by the Presidency of Sri Lanka, published today on the website of the Ministry of Defense, contains the words spoken by Cardinal Ranjith to the country and points out that earlier this year the Pope had accepted an invitation extended by the Cardinal himself, who moreover, in recent years, was the secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

In fact, when he received the Sri Lankan community in Italy in February, in St. Peter's Basilica, Bergoglio said: “I thank Cardinal Ranjith for the invitation to visit Sri Lanka. I welcome this invitation and I think the Lord will give us grace”.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, points out the official press release from the Presidency, “last August he wrote to Pope Francis extending the invitation to visit Sri Lanka”. The Archdiocese of Colombo, for his part, welcomed with “joy” the announcement made by the Pope to return from the Holy Land, recalling, in a note published in those days, the journey made ​​by Paul VI in the country on 4 December 1970 and that of John Paul II on 20 January 1995. “During the ad limina visit” of the bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, underlined then the archdiocese led by Ranjith, “the Pope urged the bishops of Sri Lanka to continue to play their role in working for reconciliation between the government and the Tamil minority in the country who live in areas where there was conflict”.

The next trips to Asia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, confirms the interest of Pope Francis for Asia. As for the two “giants” of Asia, China and Japan, there is no official project for a Papal visit, but the Holy See has traditionally been interested in improving relations with China, an interest strengthened by the presence on the throne of Peter, of a brother of the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci who went to China in the sixteenth century; the president of the Bishops' Conference of Japan, Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tokyo, for his part, remembering that the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, recently received by the Pope in the Vatican, invited him to visit the country of the Rising Sun, expressed - said AsiaNews - “the honest desire” to see the Pope in Japan. A country in which, moreover, the same Bergoglio would have wanted visit as a missionary in his youth, and where missionaries had been, over the years, two Jesuits who later became Provosts General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe and the current superior Adolfo Nicolas.

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By Iacopo Scaramuzzi