May 03, Vatican City: Though the war has ended, much work needs to be done to "promote reconciliation, to respect the human rights of all the people and to overcome the ethnic tensions that remain," Pope Francis said when he met with the bishops of Sri Lanka today.
In his address to the bishops of Sri Lanka received today as part of their quinquennial "ad limina" visit the Pope encouraged the bishops in their efforts of reconciliation and healing of the nation, after the three-decade long war against terrorism.
"After many years of fighting and bloodshed, the war in your country has finally ended. Indeed, a new dawn of hope has arisen as people now look to rebuild their lives and their communities," the Pope said.
Pope Francis noting that the "rise of religious extremists who, in promoting a false sense of national unity based on a single religious identity, have created tensions through various acts of intimidation and violence," said the Catholics of Sri Lanka wish to contribute, together with the various elements of society, to the work of reconciliation and rebuilding and to promote unity.
He said through parishes and missions, the faithful, knowledgeable of the issues that cause tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamil, can provide an atmosphere of dialogue that seeks to construct a more just and equitable society.
Highlighting the importance of Church's contribution of charitable work to redevelopment, the Pope told the bishops their work must include all in the society and the "poor must not be forgotten nor inequality permitted to grow."
He noted that Church in Sri Lanka also gives generous service in the areas of education, healthcare and outreach to the poor and commended the work of Caritas Sri Lanka for its outreach following the 2004 tsunami and for its efforts on behalf of post-war reconciliation and rebuilding, especially in the most affected regions.
The pontiff pointed out that while Sri Lanka has enjoyed increased economic development, the prophetic witness of service and compassion becomes even more important because "until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence."
"Sri Lanka is a country not only of rich ethnic diversity, but also of various religious traditions; this highlights the importance of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue for fostering mutual knowledge and enrichment," he said while commending the Bishops' services in securing a lasting peace.
The Pope underscored the need for the Church to support the family, the "fundamental cell of society where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another."
"In Sri Lanka, the war has left many families displaced and grieving the death of those closest to them. Many have lost their employment and so families have been separated as spouses leave their homes to find work. There is also the great challenge and increasing reality of mixed marriages, which require greater attention to preparation and assistance to couples in providing for the faith formation of their children," he pointed out to the bishops.
"Your efforts in support of the family assist not only the Church, but aid Sri Lankan society as a whole, especially in its efforts for reconciliation and unity," he said.
The Pope urged the bishops of Sri Lanka "to be ever vigilant" and to work with governmental authorities and other religious leaders to "ensure that the dignity and primacy of the family is upheld."