Holy Father Pope Francis, who is his pastoral visit to Sri Lanka, said that religious beliefs must never be abused in the cause of violence and war, and what Sri Lanka needs now is healing and unity instead of conflict and division.
Addressing various religious delegates at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) on 13th January 2015, Pope Francis said, "For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence. The fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation and humanity."
Upon entering the Badaranaike International Conference Hall, the Pope was welcomed with the traditional dancers and sounds of horns and drums from the traditional Sri Lankan Hevisi orchestra. Bishop Cletus Perera, the chairman of the Catholic National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, welcomed the Holy Father for his visit to the country.
Thanking the religious leaders for providing the opportunity to take part in a meeting that brings together the four largest religions of Sri Lanka, the Holy Father said, "May this fraternal encounter confirm all of us in our efforts to live in harmony and to spread the blessings of peace."
“For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence. What is needed now is healing and unity, not further conflict and division. Surely the fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation, and indeed the whole human family. It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.” Said Pope Francis.
Venerable Itthapane Dhammalankara Mahanayake Thera of the Kotte Chapter, during his felicitation speech in honour of the Holy Father at the interreligious gathering, said that Sri Lanka is a country that has the ability to make a valuable contribution towards world peace and religious and ethnic coexistence.
"Sri Lanka has a long standing and proud history and culture. It is a country that can make a great contribution towards world peace through its own multi-religious and multi ethnic nature," said Dhammalankara Thera.
The Thera also said, "The love of the mother towards her child is neither Buddhist nor Christian. It is maternal." He said that the values of love, self-sacrifice, kindness and friendship do not belong to one particular religion the same way evils such as hatred, anger or jealousy do not. "They are values and evils that belong to humanity," said the Thera.
Quoting Lord Buddha's words, "the Holy Author shows you the way. You have to do your part of the task" the Mahanayake Thera wished Pope Francis a happy and fruitful visit to our motherland on behalf of all the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
Pope Francis was warmly welcomed and blessed by various religious leaders. Ven. Kamburugamuwawe Vajira Thera, Ash-Sheikh M.F.M. Fazi, and Siva Sri T. Mahadeva blessed the Holy Father according to their respective religions.
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Bishop Cletus Perera and Bishop Emmanuel Fernando were also present at this inter-religious meeting with Pope Francis.
At the end of the meeting Holy Father Pope Francis greeted religious leaders and Mementos were presented to His Holiness by the Maha Sangha ( Buddhist monks )and other religious reprsentatives at this event.