Millennium Post

Pope canonises Indian-origin missionary as SL’s first saint

Pope canonises Indian-origin missionary as SL’s first saint
Pope Francis on Wednesday canonised Indian-origin Catholic missionary Joseph Vaz as Sri Lanka’s first saint at a public mass on Colombo seafront attended by thousands as he described the 17th century priest as a model for national reconciliation after the deadly civil war.

Hundreds of thousands of people erupted in applause at the holy mass at Galle Face promenade here this morning when Pope Francis declared Joseph Vaz, who was born in 1651 in Goa then a Portuguese colony, a saint at the start of the service. Vaz went to Sri Lanka in 1687 to minister to the scattered faithful after Dutch colonisers who had seized the island’s coastal areas from the Portuguese began persecuting Catholics.

Vaz travelled from village to village ministering to Catholics from both the Tamil and the majority Sinhalese ethnic groups. By the time of his death in 1711 he had largely rebuilt the Catholic Church, earning him the title “Apostle of Sri Lanka”.

After the canonisation, 78-year-old Pope Francis told the crowd, “St Joseph shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace.”

Speaking slowly in English, the Pope said Christians should follow the example of Vaz to build peace, justice and reconciliation. “As the life of St Joseph Vaz teaches us, genuine worship of God bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, respect for the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all,” he said.

He said the Sri Lankan church wants to continue Vaz’s legacy of service to all, saying “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right.” Catholics make up about 7 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population, while 10 times as many people follow Buddhism.

Sri Lanka releases 700 prisoners to mark Pope Francis’ visit
Sri Lanka on Wednesday released nearly 700 prisoners languishing in jails across the country to mark the visit of Pope Francis, the first Papal visit in 20 years. Following the instructions of Prez Maithripala Sirisena and Minister of Justice Wijedasa Rajapaksa, authorities released 692 prisoners who were imprisoned for minor offences and who were over 75-years-old. Commissioner General of Prisons Chandraratna Pallegama said the prison terms of other prisoners were reduced by one week of each year in detention.


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