Besieged Madhu church restored to glory: Lanka Prez to Pope
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 02, 2008, 00:00
Colombo, Dec 02: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured Pope Benedict XVI that the famous 400-year-old Madhu Catholic Church, which suffered damages in the war with LTTE, has been restored to its original glory.

The visiting Lankan President met the Pope in the Vatican City on Monday and appraised him about current developments in Sri Lanka. He said the church has been cleared of the Tamil Tiger rebels who had besieged it and restored, making it possible for the faithful to pray there.

'Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu' is a Roman Catholic church in Mannar district in embattled north Sri Lanka. It acts as a centre for pilgrimage and worship for Sri Lankan Christians, both Tamil and Sinhalese.

Pope Benedict expressed a keen interest in the developments in Sri Lanka and the measures taken by the government to provide humanitarian assistance to those who have been temporarily displaced and restore democratic freedoms, according to an official statement here today.

The Pope also expressed concern about the spread of terrorism in the region and voiced the need for a more concerted effort internationally to eliminate terrorism, wherever it may occur, it said.

Later, President Rajapaksa met with Secretary of State of the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and briefed him about the successes in the military operations in the north.

"Rajapaksa told Bertone how the LTTE is holding civilians as buffers in areas they control," the statement said adding, the President also assured him that all possible measures are being taken to ensure the safety of civilians.

President Rajapaksa also assured the Cardinal that there is a long tradition of religious harmony in the island country and that religious freedom and freedom of worship is constitutionally guaranteed, the statement said.

Bertone on his part expressed good wishes for the restoration of peace and freedom for all people in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Germany, T B Maduwegedara, who is accredited to the Vatican, were also present on the occasion.

The President, wearing a traditional white ceremonial garment and a scarf, had a private conversation with the Pope lasting about 15 minutes.

At the end of the meeting, he gave the Pope two brass candlesticks. Benedict XVI reciprocated with the gift of a pen in the shape of a column, the statement said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, December 02, 2008, 00:00

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