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CHICAGO (JGL) – Pope Francis on Wednesday (Jan. 13) urged the Catholic faithful to respect other religions during remarks before leaders of four largest religious communities integral to the life of Sri Lanka: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.


During an interreligious and interfaith meeting at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the Pontiff invoked the Second Vatican Council, where the Catholic Church declared her deep and abiding respect for other religions. She (the Catholic Church) “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines.” (Nostra Aetate, 2). For my part, I wish to reaffirm the Church’s sincere respect for you, your traditions and beliefs.”


Catholics only make up about six percent of the 21 million Sri Lankans. Buddhists make up the majority while the rest are Hindus, Islams and Christians.


Also on hand at the meeting was the Most Venerable Itthapane Dhammalankara Maahanayake Thero, who said, “The love of the mother towards her child is neither Buddhist nor Christian. It is maternal. In the same way, the values such as love, self-sacrifice, kindness, peace and friendship, or the evils such as hatred, anger, jealousy and pride, do not belong to a special religion. They are values and evils, which belong to humanity.”


The first Argentinian Pope also thanked Bishop Cletus Chandrasiri Perera and to the Venerable Vigithasiri Niyangoda Thero “for their kind words.”


Pope Francis said the Catholic Church is cooperating with all people of good will to seek the welfare of Sri Lankans and hopes that his visit will “encourage and deepen the various forms of interreligious and ecumenical cooperation which have been undertaken in recent years.”





He said there is a need for full and forthright presentations for dialogue and encounter to be effective so it will open avenues for “mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship.”


The positive developments in interreligious and ecumenical relations can bring about healing and unity to Sri Lanka, whose men and women have been victims of civil strife and violence for a quarter of century.


“Men and women do not have to forsake their identity, ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters,” the Pope stressed.


He said religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war. We must be unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and co-existence for each religion and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.”


Brother Carmelo Cortez, who is part of the Filipino Papal delegation, summed up the message of the Pope during the two-day visit to Sri Lanka: “Katatapos lang ng presidential elections sa Sri Lanka. (Sri Lanka had just held a divisive presidential elections.) The people need healing.” 


He added, “Huwag tayo humusga (kung) nakikita nating (may) nagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan dahil tayong lahat ay matatawag na isang magnanakaw kung lagi tayo nagtitira at nagtatapon ng mga pagkain sa plato. Isang uri ito ng pagnanakaw sa mga nagugutom natin kapatid na naghihirap.” (Let’s not judge others if we see people stealing from the government because we ourselves are as guilty as thieves if we leave a lot of leftovers in our plate and throw them in the trash. This is one form of stealing from the poor, who are deprived of food from their plates.)


Brother Carmelo, a Marian visionary, was a recent guest in several churches in Chicago, Illinois, where he met this reporter. He sent this reporter a video clip ( showing a group in Rome praying for the safety of the Pope in his Asian trip last Sunday (Jan. 11), and other photos during the trip, and a copy of the remarks of Pope Francis.


On Thursday, the Pope heads to the Philippines, the largest Roman Catholic country in Asia and third largest in the world, for the final leg of the journey.
In Tacloban, he'll comfort victims of the devastating 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, displaced some 4 million and turned a huge densely populated region into a wasteland.
Millions of Filipinos are expected to turn out for his events, possibly surpassing the record five million who turned out for the last papal visit by St. John Paul II in 1995. Themes Francis is expected to raise are related to the family, poverty and the environment. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


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