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