29 September, 2020

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Pope’s Visit: The Dilemma Of The Church

By R. Jeevan –

Unusual things are happening in Rome in the tiny city of the Vatican, which is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Most interestingly the head of the Vatican state, Pope Francis has been shaking the structures of the Vatican which were once thought to be “the unchangeable structures”. All those who are interested in the Catholic Church as well as the media keep a continuous eye on Vatican affairs, because nobody knows what the Pope will do next or where he will make his next visit or what stand he would take regarding an issue.

Mahinda Vatican PopeFrom the time he was elected to succeed Pope Benedict XVI he has contributed vastly in resolving social issues. He has enhanced the position of the Church on the social teachings. His apostolic exhortation on “The joy of the Gospel” is widely seen as the foundation of his Papacy. His meetings, visits, weekly audiences and writings, everything portrays a new image of the Church in the contemporary world.

He became very lenient towards the people of other faiths and overlooked those who are well to do. During his meetings with the heads of the states and his visit to various countries he voiced against all sorts of social evils which are melted by those who are in power. Within a short period of time he caught the attention of the international media who follow him on all his visits. It should be noted that he was a contender for the renowned Nobel peace prize for his contributions towards promoting world peace.

In this background he announced his visit to Sri Lanka. From the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis expressed his desire to reach Asian nations which his predecessor failed to do. He had hinted a couple of times about his desire to visit Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Catholic Church also did everything possible to invite him to Sri Lanka. No doubt Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith was in the forefront in making this dream a realisation during his term as Archbishop of Colombo and as the president of the Sri Lankan Bishops’ Conference (CBCSL). Following the official invitations from the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother and Defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa (he met Pope during an audience in November and gave the invitation letter) it became clear that apart from the Church the State is also interested in inviting the Pope.

In the past five years the Sri Lankan government has lost his image in the international arena due to the UN allegations on human rights violations in the last phase of the war in 2009. The rights groups and the ethnic minorities were accusing the government of increased harassments from the majority. Thus the government is in need of portraying its image as positively as possible. Having witnessed the increasing fame of Pope Francis, President Mahinda decided to invite him to Sri Lanka on a good will visit.

Church Divided over Papal visit

Even before the Vatican confirmed the Papal visit to Sri Lanka, concerns were raised regarding the advantages and disadvantages within the Church as well as outside. Basically the Papal visit was meant to be on the 75th anniversary of the national Basilica of Our Lady of Tewatta and opening of Benedict XVI Asian Theologeate in Negombo. Then there came another possibility of the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz. Combining everything initially it was thought that the Pope could visit the capital city where possibly he would meet various groups. But the rights groups and the Diaspora began arguing that such a visit, though spiritual in nature, could be manipulated by the regime of Rajapaksa so as to water down the international concern on the human rights abuses. The Church in northern Sri Lanka, knowing the nature of Pope Francis, began insisting on a visit to North which would give an opportunity to the war affected to meet the Pope.

During the Ad limina visit (the official visit of the Bishops’ conference to Pope every five years) in May this year, the Bishops welcomed the idea of a possible visit to north. But, after considering what the Pope has done during his visits to other countries it became evident that the Pope will not let go such an occasion to meet the war affected which is one of the worst affected group in recent times. So the Pope himself expressed his personal desire to visit north, before anyone started insisting on it. Even the delegation which went to Sri Lanka from the Vatican to monitor the security situation, issued a clearance for a Papal visit to north. At the beginning of October the Catholic Church declared a hundred days preparation for the Papal visit.

As the preparations are underway, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called for a snap presidential poll in January, just five days prior to the visit of Pope Francis despite his assurance that there would not be any elections closer to the visit. This situation placed both the Vatican and the Sri Lankan Catholic Church in a dilemma. But many view that the Sri Lankan Church leaders would have acted in a prudent manner in order to avoid this situation. However the Church is caught up in a trap due to the ambitious leadership that it has in Sri Lanka. It is the right time for the Catholic community to take correct and suitable decisions in order to promote good governance in Sri Lanka.

The late Tissa Balasuriya, a veteran Sri Lankan Oblate who dedicated his whole life arguing for social justice and human rights, once regrettably noted on the cause of the unwanted events which raged in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo during Pope John Paul’s visit in 1995. There were several protests by Buddhist monks and fundamentalists, regarding the position taken by the Pope on Buddhism in one of his books.

However before his arrival in Sri Lanka the Pope sought conciliation with the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and in fact personally wanted to meet the Buddhists monks. But just prior to his arrival Vatican officials clarified that what the Pope was seeking was not an apology to the position but using his good will to reconcile with the Buddhists. This had doubled the outrage and there was little done to calm the situation and make the Pope’s visit a peaceful one. The main reason for this is that the Vatican was not well informed about the actual situation in Sri Lanka and the Church had indeed underestimated the situation.

Fr. Tissa blamed the Sri Lankan Catholic hierarchy and particularly the man in charge of the Papal visit for their ignorance of the ground reality and the lack of openness when it came to the collaboration with those who are in field. He warned that this would lead the Church towards ruin. Fr. Tissa is no more and what he predicted still continues in Sri Lanka.

There is clear evidence that those mistakes are being repeated again and again. Any Catholic would not resist an opportunity to welcome the Pope, and especially Pope Francis who has attracted the attention of all. So it is should be seen as a privileged moment to have his Holiness in our country. This is what we desired and are still seeking. But given the present situation in Sri Lanka can we still expect the Pope to visit the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” which in recent times seen as a “tear of the Indian Ocean” due to its records on human rights violations in all possible levels. May be, it is more meaningful for the Pontiff to step into this island nation right now as it is ravaged by so many issues, according to Pope Francis Charism who always calls for dialogue and  assures his closeness to the oppressed and afflicted. But those who fall into this ideology should also take into consideration the extra-high possibility of manipulation.

At a time when all peace loving Sri Lankans are awaiting for a change in the regime in order to eradicate corruption, nepotism, political oppression, religious extremism  etc, it is not justifiable to offer the present Mahinda regime to remain in power. Unlike any other elections, the forthcoming presidential election has the minority ethnic and religious groups as conspicuous players. They are widely seen as the king-makers. Both the ruling party and the opposition are making all efforts to rally their support.

The Sri Lankan Catholic community owns at least 6.5% of the total vote bank. The ruling Mahinda Rajapaksa faction and its Catholic members are creating all possible methodologies to portray Mahinda as a friend of Catholics. By exhibiting unprecedented billboards in which Pope Francis is portrayed with the President or with his ministers the government is trying to manipulate the image of Pope Francis for its elections purposes. Ignoring the Church’s warning to remove the billboards immediately, new ones are being put up every day in Catholic majority areas.

I would like to argue whether the Sri Lankan Catholic Church presided by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith who was the key person in organizing Pope John Paul II’s 1995 visit, is in a position to advocate for what is just and good. In the past, things came to limelight on how the Sri Lankan government had manipulated the Church officials to garner international support especially through the person of Cardinal. On the other hand some Bishops especially in the north continued to raise their voice for their people; in the south the Church was carrying the Mahinda regime in its shoulders. When, the then Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith was appointed as the Bishop of Colombo Diocese and one year later named Cardinal, the state offered all that was possible. From a religious figure he was brought to a national figure through the ways Mahinda government treated him. In his gratefulness to the government he did everything possible to restore the image of Mahinda’s regime.

It should be noted here that two years ago the Cardinal had organized a great banquet for President Rajapaksa on the 42nd anniversary of his political life. It took place nowhere than in the eternal city, Rome. He made arrangements for the Defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to meet the Pope in the Vatican. In turn Gotabaya had offered a grand banquet for the priests in Rome in November 2013. On 2nd of November in one of its articles ‘Vatican Insider’ raised a question when the doubts regarding the Papal visit started arising due to the much discussed election. How was the Cardinal able to rush to a decision and confirm the Papal visit on the part of the present regime without any clear procedures or even the knowledge of other Bishops?

The local media revealed in November that a meeting took place between the Defence secretary  Gotabaya and the Catholic priests of the Archdiocese in a military hotel in Uswetakiyawa on 23rd of October. The media also exposed a meeting between the Bishops and the Defence secretary on the 21st of October at the Archbishop’s house where Gotabaya had insisted that the visit should take place. The Catholic intellectuals started questioning whether the visit of the Pope is administered by the Catholic Church or the Rajapaksa government. It is understandable that there is a security concern and the discussions with the government are inevitable but the government imposing certain conditions on the visit is unacceptable at any cost.

Though the Church has insisted on not politicizing the visit of the Pope, practically it had been already politicized by those who are in power. Even the recent visit of the President to the Vatican was made with a clear political agenda, and those who are behind the arrangements should be held responsible for promoting such meeting at this crucial moment in the Country.

If the Church continues to stick to the Papal visit agenda in January, concretely it is going to favour the incumbent president in his election campaign and affect the opposition. Any possible cancellation will not favour any parties, instead it will allow the Sri Lankan Catholics to freely decide on their votes. Apart from the visit we can expect post-poll violence coinciding with the Pope’s visit, no matter who  wins.

The priority of the Sri Lankan Church at this juncture is not the preparations they have already committed to or the money spent, but promoting good governance by requesting the cancellation of the Pope’s at this particular time. If Church leaders in Sri Lanka continue to shoulder the present regime and persuade the Vatican to carry out the already planned visit, the Church in fact is committing a historical mistake. Any Catholic would not want a repetition of the situation in 1995 or even worse than that.

When the Church leaders fail to accomplish their duty, then it is the responsibility of the local faithful to do what is necessary.  Let us join hands and raise our voices for the truth.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    3

    Are you Jeevan Thiagarajah? [Edited out]

    • 7
      1

      Popes are known to support authoritarian regimes (like the Nazis), and in Argentina too he supported or kept quiet about dictator’s atrocities.

      • 4
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        “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars &
        Storms purify the atmosphere.”

        Hail the Velvet Storm.

        Dios Mio!

  • 9
    0

    Fr. Tissa was correct.
    The Pope lives in his own world and believes that all who visit him have not wilfully commited any sins.
    He is not privy to the wicked world outside the Vatican.
    He is probably not aware of UN Human Rights reports.
    He should visit stable peaceful humanitarian regimes.
    Does he know that Shirani Rajapakse, a roman catholic, gained entry to Thirupathy Temple, with her husband the president, by lying that she is a Buddhist.

    • 1
      1

      Justice,

      As a Head of State (Vatican), Pope Francis knows everything that’s happening in the world. He has his Ambassadors just like any other Head of State. He may surprise us with his next move.

      • 4
        0

        Apey ratte rattons!

        Greatness is certainly relative”

        French: Arrêté.(“stop, stop”)
        It can also be a rocky ridge.

        Cola, Colaba, Cassandra : both a blessing and a curse.

        Live life with honor and consider that a success.- value judgement.

        Remember that education is a journey not a destination.

        Enjoy the trip.

  • 7
    2

    R. Jeevan –

    RE: Pope’s Visit: The Dilemma Of The Church

    This was NOT the First Time the Pope collaborated with Dictators and Murderers.

    This Pope is Medamulana MaRa’s, Mara’s, Pope.

    “When the Church leaders fail to accomplish their duty, then it is the responsibility of the local faithful to do what is necessary. Let us join hands and raise our voices for the truth.”

    Hitler’s Pope

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler%27s_Pope

    Hitler’s Pope is a book published in 1999 by the British journalist and author John Cornwell that examines the actions of Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pope Pius XII, before and during the Nazi era, and explores the charge that he assisted in the legitimization of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany, through the pursuit of a Reichskonkordat in 1933. The book is critical of Pius’ conduct during the Second World War, arguing that he did not do enough, or speak out enough, against the Holocaust. Cornwell argued that Pius’s entire career as the nuncio to Germany, Cardinal Secretary of State, and pope was characterized by a desire to increase and centralize the power of the Papacy, and that he subordinated opposition to the Nazis to that goal. He further argued that Pius was antisemitic and that this stance prevented him from caring about the European Jews.[1] The author has moderated some of his allegations since publication of the book, and the work remains controversial.

    Various commentators have challenged the book’s leading ideas, or challenged factual assertions contained within it.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] Jewish historian of the Holocaust Martin Gilbert credits Pius XII with various actions which saved Jews, and notes that the Nazi security forces referred to him as the “mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals”.[9] Pius XII maintained links to the German Resistance.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] and in the assessment of Catholic historian Frank Coppa writing for the Encyclopedia Britannica, Cornwell’s depiction of Pius XII as anti-Semitic lacks “credible substantiation”.[17]

    The author has been praised for attempting to bring into the open the debate on the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Nazis, but also accused of making unsubstantiated claims and ignoring positive evidence. The author has moderated some of his allegations, since publication of the book. In 2004, Cornwell stated that Pius XII “had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by Germany. … But even if his prevarications and silences were performed with the best of intentions, he had an obligation in the postwar period to explain those actions”[7][18] He similarly stated in 2008 that Pius XII’s “scope for action was severely limited”, but that “[n]evertheless, due to his ineffectual and diplomatic language in respect of the Nazis and the Jews, I still believe that it was incumbent on him to explain his failure to speak out after the war. This he never did.”[19] In 2009 he described Pacelli as effectively a “fellow traveller” of the Nazis.[20]

  • 0
    5

    The writer appears to be a Catholic and admits that the present Father of the Church has done much changes inside. Indeed the present Pope is a person having a mind of his own and accordingly accepted the invitation to visit Sri Lanka and follow a busy schedule, for which no Catholic, if he calls himself a Catholic can now say NO. There can be no dilemma as the as far as the Catholics are concerned.

    The writer’s sole aim, as per his concluding paragraphs is to cancel the Pope’s visit in view of allegations and the image against the Government, which is a matter for the voters to decide. To whose advantage is the writer advocating his point of view? If the Pope cancels the visit, then Anti-Government groups can say that even the Pope is against the Government for electoral advantage. Isn’t that political?

    The writer goes on to say that if the clergy in Sri Lanka cannot prevent the visit then the local faithfuls must and in the middle of his article he brings the name of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, who was once ex-communicated from the church and pardoned. In other words the writer is advocating a rebellion in the church and has gone to the extent of calculating the Catholic vote bank.

    I can only say:

    “THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH IS ABOVE POLITICS AND DIVISION”

  • 3
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    I di agree with what the Jeevan tells. When the Government does not give due respect to the promise it gave to a spiritual institution and acts as it is dealing with the Sri Lankan state institution which can be manipulated easily by state owners, then the Church has to take a firm stand in order to keep high its standerd and its neutrality. It seems in recent days the Catholic community is fed up with what the government has done and many object the visit of the Pope. Who will gurantee the security to Pope in case there is a change of regime? After the election there will be enough opportunities for the Pope to visit Sri Lanka.
    Finally it is the decision of Vatican. But we are bound to inform the Vatican about the reality. May be the beuraucrat Catholics who are insensitive to the reality in the country want the Pope to come in January in order to accomplish waht they need. But Majority of the Catholic population is in the view that this regime should be over thrown. Who voices aginst Pope’s visit in January. The people who work with the people and voice for them. Fr. Leo Perera, Ruki Fernando, Civil Society, Chrisitian Solidarity, Fr. Hector, all these people are veteren. They still keep the church alive in the grassroote levels. Unfortunately those who make decisions are the people in the AC rooms. At a time when the Church is changing towards being sensitive to the social problems of the Church, still there are Churchmen in Sri Lanka arquing for conservative ideas and giving no rooms for Vatican Councils.
    Fr. Tissa, of course, is a veteren. He is a prophet. Some unwanted elements made him to be excommunicated from the Church. It took place due to the baseless information provided to Vatican. But, it should be noted that knowing the reality and truth later, his excommunication ban was lifted and untill his death he reamined a good Christian.

    I strongly feel that at anycost our Holy Father shouldn’t engage with the present government. As a Catholic I can assure that we are ready to face the consequences. We are ready to bear up anything for the Church and the Holy Father, even to the level of maryrdom. We donn’t want to place our Mother Church in a difficult position because of this unfortunate visit. Let the people who are in AC rooms and practice collor jobs say what they want. But we stand by truth and what is right, because the people who have built high hopes and in the air particulary commited mistakes due to their decisions, will try their best to defend themselves.

  • 5
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    The Pope should cancel the visit to SriLank due to the timing of his vusit amidst elections. Already his name has been misused in the campaign by putting his picture in the poster with unappropriate wording.
    The church protested but not vehemently and even cathloic ministers have misused with their picture.The cardinal who is the head if the church together wuth all the bishops must urgentlt advise the pope to postpone the visit to a later date. If they fail they would be letting down the catholics and do agreat harm to the whoke roman catholic church.
    The preceding week after elections could be a very tensed Unsettled period whoever wins a nd the visit by the head of the church in this situation would be a big damage to the church.
    There could be rebellion in the congregation if the cardinal does not firmly withiut fear or favour.

  • 5
    0

    Rajapaksas as the con artists treat the papal as another Mahanayake of the 4 chapters who will be bought with threats and a brand new Benz or an Audi/BMW.

    Whats going on with Go-Ra as a govt servant and just a ministry secretary of Defense have to do with the papal visit and goes all the way to the Vatican to present a letter of invitation. Anyone hear anything like this before? a papal was invited my a govt servant who have nothing to do with religious matters except the god father of the new Medamulana Nikhaya which Gnanasara is the Mahayanake.

    Then again, there was this one month pre-visit and post-visit that the Papal will not agree to travel and for some reason MaRa got a jolly ride to the Vatican with a plane road of his rogue advisers like the Pimp-Sajja Vaas, Cheap Justice and more imprortantly the Long John of Wattala who happens to the leader of the house for UNP.

    This this stupido Long John with Ma-Ra it gave an impression by Ma-Ra that we have the leader of the opposition from the Parliament here and we all are good for you to visit us in January no matter the elections which was called 2 years in advance and MaRa does not give a s**t of Papal and election schedule are fixed by Kendara Sumane and according to stars.

    So the Papal visit on 13th Jan ? the elections are on 8th and the final results will be available on 10th which have hardly 3 days in between.

    As expected the violence unleashed by Rajapaksas knowing their days are counted and numbers are too small and there is not life for them after 8th Jan, will be treated with the equal or amount of force by the masses who have suffered so much under this rule and this will give a very bad impression for the Papal visit and I wonder if this visit will ever happen at all.

    This is a shame for the catholic priests in the country as they havnt updated the Vatican with the correct facts and even now its not too late to cancel this Papal visit.

  • 22
    2

    The truth of the matter is Mahinda Rajapakse even tricked the Pope by keeping the date of the election wishy-washy and first getting the church to finalise the date of the Pope’s visit and then announcing the date of the election. This is how the Rajapakses operate, they think anyone is fair game to be tricked. The Sri Lankan Catholic hierarchy should take most of the blame for this; they should have enough intelligence, foresight and experience to see through the usual modus operandi of the Rajapakses.

    • 22
      2

      Absolutely correct

    • 22
      2

      As said by fellow reader ,the comment by nimal fernando is absolutely correct.

    • 8
      8

      You need a Priyanka class watti amma to say:

      Get lost you old pappaw (paws up!)fools- to indra congress.

  • 6
    0

    The local catholic church and its hierachy should act independently without any fear. They should realise the ground situation with elections on the 8th January just 5 days before the Popes visit. There could a very unsettled situation whoever wins atleast for a few days after elections. Is it proper for the head of the Roman catholic church, representing more than 1.2 billion people to be placed in an awkward situation if he visits at this time. The cardinal may have his own personal reasons for his inaction but he should not let down the large majority of the catholic people to frustration by not ad ising Vatictan the true ground situation and request for postponement of the visit.

  • 3
    2

    As much as we catholic’s love to see the Pope visit Sri Lanka, prudence dictates that the visit should be postponed as it’s become crystal clear now that the Govt is manipulating this.

    • 4
      0

      Uyala, yala ya!

      Dunna madda! (wasn’t the cardinal and coup same same like rest of the elk?) its your class its confession core with no honour to the `I` not the I love you` just to hoodwink an orgy.)

  • 0
    2

    JUSTICE – Fr, Tissa is a believe what we say cathilic.(brain washed)
    Where you now aware the Pope recently broke bread with Muslim
    Clergy & joined them in prayer in Turkey?
    Therefore, Shiratnthi visiting a temple is not an issue

    As the head of the Vatican City A Pope is verywell aware of what is happening in the world because within the Vatican walls there is Intelligence gathering and sharing section taking place between the Vatican & the CIA since the WWII.
    There are (06) Vatican representatives in the UN.

    LOCAL CATHOLIC CHURCH IN A DILEMA & CARDINAL RANJITH HELPLESS.

    ROY.. There is no Catholic Church without hanging onto POWER.First it was Emperor Constantine, then the Vatican was crumbling, then a Pact with Clovis, after him dagobert II ect., Church history is tainted and even today…. Vatican bank engaged in money laundering, ivesting in gun industry……………….
    Roy stop worshipping the Church, the Priests and the Pope. FOCUS ON GOD. Church rules are all man made to control our lives.

    In Sri Lanka the Church in crisis. Tamil Catholic Clergy in the North led by S.J. Emmanuel/Rayappu supported by Sinhala CLERGY from the South have scandalised Jesus’folk having “thambo’ Prabakaran as “jesus Christ” & calling LTTE Divine Soldiers & suicide bombers martyrs and identifying themselves first as Tamils and then Catholics.
    Whilst the rest of the Catholic Clergy kept their mouths shut Basis of the Catholic Faith was destroyed. Proclaimed I am Tamil first and Catholic second. THIS IS THE CONCERN & DILEMA FOR THE POPE.

    Israel betrayed GOD with an object call “Baal”Judas betrayed JESUS CHRIST for thirty pieces of Silver. S.J.EMMANUEL INCITED THE CLERGY AND BETRAYED GOD, JESUS CHRIST AND HIS FOLKS FOR A PIECE OF LAND CALLED EELAM continue to remain in cassock..THE BEAST” (liberation Theology for Tamils) by Mario Perera…available at Godage & Brothers (Pvt) Limited.
    This is the Dilemma for The Church……….. Pope’s visit armed with the Wooded Cross to chase these Clergy from the house of GOS & clean up the church………

  • 3
    0

    Look at the picture! The Pope, MR and the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka! When has history recorded a Chief Justice of a given country working hand in glove with their own President? The visible presence of the pope in the same picture is a symbol of corruption that has plagued the church and state through the centuries. Are these men above the law of the land? Are they above the law of God? This to me is a portrait not of men and majesty but of the hopelessness and suppression. The Cardinal and the Roman Catholic Church needs to take responsibility for this miss carriage of Justice. They have let down a nation by using the Pope’s visit to garner votes for MR, a close friend of the Cardinal. The Cardinal has invisibly supported a Sinhala Buddhist rhetoric while the rest of the southern catholic church remains silent. The Northern church is silenced because of its ethnicity. The intelligent have to watch another crucifixion of their own religious founder… 2 millennia later. A nation just lost it’s soul!

  • 2
    1

    Of course we can expect the BBS to try to give His Holiness a very Sri Lankan welcome (like the one our Vijitha Rohana gave Rajiv Gandhi?).

    • 4
      1

      Unexpected Encounter of the Missing Kind!….Despicable.

      Hoy hoy,

      Beware of the incessant thunder of drones at night- if its what Vijith-bbs.

      (they are presently remotely commanded and controlled from the west.
      Cardiz Esp. from the defence shield europa will do it first. Boom Boom!!!

      Don’t count luck on that one. Nothing is indispensable.

  • 3
    1

    I imagine that the writer is only echoing the sentiments of many Catholics in Sri Lanka, the wish that the Papal visit does not occur as planned, in light of the Presidential Elections and the way in which the government seems to be trying to exploit the visit to its political advantage. I do think, however, that it is not fair, as the writer seems to have done, to try to blame Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Roman Catholic hierarchy in SL for not handling the matter well. Let’s be fair. They have been placed in a most unenviable position. So, on the contrary, let’s spare a thought for them and for the dilemma in which they have place.

    As respondent ‘Point of View’ has noted, the Vatican is well informed of what is happening in other countries, through its own ambassadors or Nuncios. Indeed it is said that many countries choose to have diplomatic representation at the Holy See, because they value the quality of the ‘intelligence’ that the Vatican is able to collect through its sources. So, there can be no question that the Pope and his people are not well informed of the ground situation in Sri Lanka.

    And let us also not worry overmuch about how effective the government’s efforts to use the Papal visit to its advantage, will be. Remember the CHOGM and how MR thought it will help his image? As we know, it spectacularly backfired. And for every Catholic that MR thinks he can make happy with the visit, how many radical Buddhists will he alienate? And, besides, it is silly to think that the Catholics will vote for MR only because he facilitated the Papal visit. I believe that they will also not have forgotten the young man who was shot in Negombo during a peaceful protest or that poor fisherman from Chilaw whom the Police shot down in similar fashion – the fact that they were both Catholics may not have escaped people’s notice. The electorate is a lot more discerning now. Gimmicks and superficial gestures are not going to so easily win votes.

    While one hopes that the Papal visit proceeds without incident, it would be idle to expect that there will not be the usual agitation and protests from the ‘usual suspects’. Already the likes of Shenali Waduge have lost no time demanding on Lanka Web that the Pope be asked to apologise for the atrocities committed in SL by the Portuguese and for the alleged complicity of the Catholic clergy in them. Then they have even argued that Blessed Joseph Vaz should not be canonised by the Pope during his SL visit. How the canonisation of a Catholic saint should adversely affect non Catholics is difficult to imagine. But then not much of their arguments make a great deal of sense. I think it is a sad thing that there are those who simply love to indulge in continually digging up the alleged sins committed by the country’s colonial masters, instead of learning to put those things behind them and get a move on. No, they won’t. Maybe, there is some streak of masochism that makes people want to resurrect the past and relive indignities and sufferings that were then visited on them.

    Sri Lankans are not shy to proclaim how very hospitable and welcoming we are as a nation. Sadly, that is no longer the picture that is actually being projected to the outside world. Attacks on foreigners visiting the island, rapes of female tourists, assaults at night clubs and so on give the island a different reputation – not a reputation for hospitality and friendliness. Indeed, SL’s reputation abroad generally has suffered much in recent years and any disruption or incidents during the Papal visit will not help. So, let us hope that the visit goes off well. There is no doubt that all people of goodwill will want to welcome the Pope as an honoured guest and want his visit to succeed.

  • 0
    0

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