.- The coordinator of Sri Lankan migrants in Italy has confirmed the dates announced by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for Pope Francis’ 2015 visit, during which he could canonize Sri Lankan Blessed Joseph Vaz.
Msgr. Nevin Perera revealed to CNA June 11 that Pope Francis first said he would go to the country during a Feb. 8 gathering with Sri Lankans in Rome. During the audience, “the Pope said then that he was going to Sri Lanka, and we know that he confirmed it coming back from the Holy Land.”
According to the Colombo Page, Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, confirmed Monday that Pope Francis will travel to Sri Lanka Jan. 13-15, 2015.
Speaking of the pontiff’s projected schedule, Msgr. Perera explained that Pope Francis is set arrive to Colombo the morning of Jan. 13 around 9 or 9:30 a.m., and will leave for Manila, in the Philippines the morning of Jan. 15.
Following the Pope’s arrival, the coordinator explained that the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is planning to welcome him, after which the pontiff “will go to the presidential palace where he will meet all of the politicians” from both major parties in the country for lunch.
After their encounter, Pope Francis is set to travel to the Institute for theological studies in Asia, located in the large city of Negombo.
“From there he will go to the basilica of Our Lady of Sri Lanka,” where he will meet “with all of the religious, priests and nuns of the whole island,” the coordinator continued.
The next morning Msgr. Perera revealed that the Pope is slated to celebrate Mass at 8:30, during which they are hoping he will canonize Bl. Joseph Vaz, an Indian priest who traveled to Sri Lanka as a missionary during the Dutch occupation, bringing the sacraments to Catholics forced to practice their faith in secrecy.
Although they are still waiting for the canonization to be approved by the Vatican, the coordinator explained that he is hopeful it will take place.
Following the Mass, the Roman Pontiff is scheduled to have lunch with the Sri Lankan Bishop’s Conference, and will meet with various other religious leaders later that evening.
“This is the tentative program that we have,” he said, observing that there are still some events that could be added or changed, but that the Vatican delegation will go to Sri Lanka at the end of this month, “and they will finalize the program as such.”
Referring to the preparations happening within Sri Lanka, Msgr. Perera noted that there have already been “two to three meetings with the cardinal, the president, the leader of the armed forces, the security division and the foreign ministry.”
“We have already had discussions,” he explained, adding that the cardinal’s own personal schedule during the Pope’s visit will also be confirmed, as well as that of the bishop’s conference secretary-general, who are the key organizers of the trip.
Regarding security concerns while the Pope is there, the coordinator observed that “we have a peaceful atmosphere in Sri Lanka today.”
“We don’t worry too much about security because anybody can travel anywhere in Sri Lanka today,” he said. “This is my impression.”