Manila – Catholic in Asia spoke briefly on the phone to Colombo with Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, National Director of Catholic Social Communication in Sri Lanka on Friday, Dec. 5, to get the local Church’s perspective of concerns raised by Catholics who are pushing for the postponement of Pope Francis’ January 2015 visit to their country.
Here’s what Father Fernando had to say: [excerpts]
Catholic In Asia : What was the outcome of the meetings with the Vatican papal visit team that went there after the schedule of early elections next year was announced ?
Father Cyril Gamini Fernando: The Vatican team did not come here in connection with the elections. They have come here to check on the preparations for the papal visit. That is the normal thing. They do the same thing in Manila also. They arrived day before yesterday (Dec. 3) and they have left already. As of now there is no change in the schedule of papal visit events.
What is the response of Sri Lanka Church officials to concerns of Catholics detailed in published letters and statements? What is Cardinal Ranjith’s response to these, and to “politicization” of the papal visit ?
We have requested all parties connected with these elections that they should not use these as election tools, whether their pictures with the pope or anything showing the papal visit. So we have asked if there are already such pictures displayed outside or in online accounts, they should remove them all. We have told that to all parties.
Election day is on the 8th (January) we have about six days ‘til the 13th to open the ballot and count and declare the president before we will welcome the Holy Father for the visit.
What assurance can local Church organizers give for the safety of the pope and people who will be around the venue of papal visit events?
We have faith in God and we have asked the people to pray and prepare spiritually for the visit because it is primarily a spiritual event.