If there is any place where the role of a bridge is most apt, it is in Sri Lanka, and it is the Church in the country. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, made the observation in an interview to Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio and Vatican television CTV, ahead of the visit of Pope Francis to Sri Lanka and the Philippines next week. After visiting the island nation, Jan. 13-15, the Holy Father will fly to the Philippines from where he will return to the Vatican, Jan. 19. The Sinhalese who are mostly Budddhist, make up over 74% of Sri Lanka’s over 21 million population; whereas the Tamils, who are largely Hindu, form some 13%. Catholics are a little over 1.5 million. Sri Lanka was wracked by a 26-year civil war between Tamil rebels and the predominantly Sinhalese government which ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the Tamils. Cardinal Parolin explained that the Catholic Church with members on both sides of the nation’s ethnic divide has the duty of bringing about national dialogue, reconciliation and collaboration. He observed that the island nation has a tradition of inter-religious harmony, but regretted that some extremist groups manipulate public opinion and create tension. He hoped that the nation’s authorities will be able to maintain the tradition of religious coexistence. He hoped the visit of Pope Francis will help the nation to look forward rather than reopen old wounds.
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