Pope Francis on Saturday 08th February 2014, told Sri Lankans living in Italy that he hoped to take up an invitation to visit their country, where the wounds of civil war still needed to heal.
Holy Father Pope FRancis met a group of Sri Lankan pilgrims, led by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, who proffered the invitation.
He responded: "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." He also spoke of the need to heal wounds from Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009.
"Unfortunately, many tears have been shed in recent years, on account of the internal conflict which caused so many victims and so much damage," Francis said, according to comments released by the Vatican.
"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, hope for development and hope for peace."
An estimated 6 percent of the country's population is Roman Catholic. The Vatican sees Asia as a region of growth for Catholicism. It has previously indicated that Holy Father Pope Francis
is planning to visit South Korea this summer in what would be his first visit to the Asian continent.
The probability of this visit was bolstered on Saturday, when the Vatican announced Francis had approved 124 Koreans killed for their faith in past centuries to be officially recognized as martyrs, a step on the way to sainthood.
It was unclear whether Francis would visit South Korea and Sri Lanka on a single trip to the region. The Vatican previously said possible visits to the Philippines and Sri Lanka would not take place in 2014.
Pope Francis' address to the group from Sri Lanka -
I greet you, dear brothers and sisters of the Sri Lankan community in Italy! I extend fraternal greetings to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the other Bishops of your homeland. And 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.
You have come on pilgrimage to Rome to render homage to Our Lady, at the end of the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the consecration to her of the Church in Sri Lanka.
Seventy-five years ago, the dark clouds of what would be the second world conflict were thickening in the skies and the faithful, guided by a sure intuition of faith, entrusted themselves to Our Lady, who always defends her children from dangers. In 1940, in the dramatic circumstances of the war, the Archbishop of Colombo, Mgr Jean-Marie Masson, of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, made a vow to build a shrine in honour of Our Lady if the island were preserved from foreign invasion. So it came about, and after the end of the war the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Lanka at Tewatte was built, and was consecrated forty years ago.
Dear brothers and sisters, Our Lady is always close to us, she looks upon each one of us with maternal love and accompanies us always on our journey. Do not hesitate to turn to her for every need, especially when the burden of life with all its problems makes itself felt.
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. 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, hope for development and hope for peace. For this reason, I assure you that you have a particular place in my prayer. I ask the Lord to grant you the gift of peace and reconciliation, and to help you in your effort to ensure a better future for all who live in Sri Lanka. I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lanka. I ask you to pray for me and from my heart I bless you.