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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2793

Governments’s war with terrorists is to restore the lost freedom of Tamils– President Mahinda to Pope Benedict XVI

President Mahinda received by Pope Benedict XVIPresident Mahinda received by Pope Benedict XVIVatican City, 02 December, ( Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa who arrived in Rome on Sunday, visited the Vatican City yesterday and had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

At the private audience held at the Holy Father’s Library in Vatican, Sri Lankan President apprised the Pope about current situation in the country, especially the government’s efforts in relieving Tamil peoples in the north from the iron clutches of the separatists terrorists and also described efforts undertaken by the government to restore Tamil civilians’ lost freedom and democracy which has been grabbed by the terrorist for the last three decades.

President Mahinda Rajapakse also briefed the Holy Father the efforts taken to clear the Madhu area from terrorists and restoring and reopening the Sacred Madhu Shrine for worship.

It is learnt that Pope Benedict expressed his keen interest in the developments in Sri Lanka, the moves by the Government to provide humanitarian assistance, the hope for the restoration of democratic freedoms in all of Sri Lanka, The Pope had also expressed his concern at the spread of terrorism in the region, and the need for more concerted action internationally to eliminate terrorism, wherever it occurs.President Mahinda Rajapakse in a private audience with Pope Benedict XVIPresident Mahinda Rajapakse in a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI

Later the Sri Lankan President apprised the Secretary of State of the Vatican Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone about the situation in the North, and the progress made in combating and defeating terrorism in Sri Lanka so far, such as the liberation of the East that was achieved since his last visit to the Vatican.

In discussions on the current situation, the President informed the Secretary of State of the successes in military operation in the North, particularly the freeing of the Madhu area and the sacred shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, which is an important centre of Catholic worship and pilgrimage, the restoration of the Madhu Church by Sri Lankan troops after the damage caused by the LTTE that earlier controlled the area, and that after many years, the Madhu Church is now open for worship.

First Lady Shiranthi Rajapakse, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Mrs. Deepthi Bogollagama, Minister of State for Enterprise Development Mano Wijeratne, T.B. Maduwegadera, Sri Lanka Ambassador in Germany who is also accredited as Ambassador to Vatican , Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, Ambassador to Italy, Chairman of Sri Lanka Airlines Nishantha Wickremasinghae, Lucien Rajakaruna, Mrs. Asoka Karunagoda, A.H.M. Aswer President’s Advisor to Parliamentary Affairs and Father J. Kurukulasuriya were also present along with President Mahinda Rajapakse, when he met with Pope Benedict XVI.President Mahinda  Rajapakse explains the souvenir given  to Pope Benedict XVIPresident Mahinda Rajapakse explains the souvenir given to Pope Benedict XVI

The President also met The Secretary of State of Vatican Cardinal Bertone and appraised him of the humanitarian situation in the North and the steps being taken by the Government to assist the persons temporarily displaced due to the ongoing military operations to free the North too of terrorism, especially due to the LTTE holding civilians as human buffers in areas still under its control, where the troops had been instructed to ensure the safety and assist the civilians affected by the conflict.

President Rajapaksa explained the Cardinal that religious freedom and freedom of worship is guaranteed in the Sri Lankan Constitution and the country has a long historic tradition of religious harmony.

The President also said government is keen on a political settlement to the ethnic conflict after the defeat of terrorism and repeated his request to the LTTE to lay down their arms, surrender and enter the democratic process.

The Secretary of State of Vatican expressed good wishes for the restoration of peace and freedom for all people in Sri Lanka.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Germany T. B. Maduwegedara who is accredited to Vatican were also present at the discussion with the Cardinal.

Earlier on Sunday evening, Sri Lanka’s Italian Ambassador Hemantha Warnakulasuriya hosted a dinner at his residence in Rome to honor President Mahinda Rajapakse, First lady Shiranthi Rajapakse and the crew members of the SriLanka Airlines who flew into Rome on Saturday morning on the inaugural flight - Colombo – Rome.

At the dinner, a special token was presented to President Mahinda Rajapakse for having brought for the first time the national carrier the SriLanka airlines to Rome.

Sources told Asian Tribune that Sri Lanka Airlines has made arrangements with Air 1, a private airline to bring air passengers free of charges from Milan to join SriLanka Rome Colombo flight.

Sources also told that after the audience with Pope, Sri Lanka President and his entourage left for Ankara yesterday for a two-day state visit to Turkey.

- Asian Tribune -

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