Colombo Telegraph

Visit To The Vatican By The President

By Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

The report that the President Rajapaksa soon after his return from New York has flown to the Vatican to extend an official invitation to the Pope Francis, astonished me.

It was somewhere in July this year that a delegation from the Vatican arrived in Sri Lanka to see to the logistics of the papal visit schedules for January next year. Subsequently there was also a media conference and announcements were made by the Sri Lankan Church authorities with regard to the Pope’s two-day visit. A senior police officer has also been appointed to see to the arrangements.

After all those arrangements have been made, it looks quite strange to me that  the President has now gone to the Vatican personally to invite the Pope. This gives the strange impression that the Pope, as the head of a State, has decided to visit  Sri Lanka without the consent of our government.

I cannot understand the protocol. Has this happened in previous instances when heads of States from China and Japan visited Sri Lanka? Could anyone be kind enough to explain this anomaly to me and to others who may find difficult to understand these proceedings regarding Pope’s visit?

In fact, on two previous occasions, when the popes, namely Paul VI and John Paul II, visited Sri Lanka, there were no visits made to the Vatican by the then prime minister or the President to extend formal invitations.

What was the need for our President to spend the money of the people to make this visit to the Vatican when a papal envoy is residing at Baudhaloka Mawatha a few kilometers away from the Temple Trees?

The ambiguity of this visit by the President at a time when an election is to be held soon in Sri Lanka is really creating suspicion and leaving room for legitimate speculation.

Is the pope having second thoughts about the visit? Is he considering to cancel the intended visit because of the election that is to be held a few days or weeks before or after Pope’s visit?

Is the government planning to get the needed legitimacy through his visit? Will his visit be used by the government as a part of his election campaign to attract the votes in the Catholic belt? Is there a hidden agenda behind the visit not made known to the public? Are the Sri Lankan Church leaders also involved in a secret agenda? Or as some people wonder, is there here an appeal to  the Pope to reverse his previous decision not to visit, bless or open the massive building complex intended for an Opus Dei University constructed by the armed forces  with the dollars of the Opus Dei flowing into the country, and of course to the metropolitan church?

The media has reported also that the Sri Lankan President has mentioned to the Pope about the socio-economic development that is taking place and the high level of religious harmony prevailing in the country.

Perhaps the Pope may not be aware of the results of the recent provincial council elections in Western and Uva provinces, which indicates the people’s fast losing confidence in the governance of the President !

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