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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2620

Pope urges Sri Lankan government and rebels to end violence

Vatican, 21 April, ( Pope Benedict XVI met with Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday and insisted that the government and rebel forces to "put an end to the violence that is bloodying the island." He urged Sri Lankan government and rebels to end violence. Pope Benedict XVI welcomes Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse to the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI welcomes Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse to the Vatican.

The Vatican statement said that the Pontiff encouraged the two sides in the dispute must respect human rights, promote dialogue and return to the negotiating table as "the only path" to ending two decades of conflict.

"The Catholic Church, which offers a significant contribution to the life of the country, will intensify the delicate work of educating consciences with the sole goal of promoting the common good, reconciliation and peace," the statement said.

While the Pope and President spent 20 minutes speaking privately, Rajapaksa's spokesman, Lucien Rajakarunanayake, told reporters the president was hoping that "the pope will better appreciate the efforts of the Sri Lankan government to resolve the conflict."

"There are shortcomings and human rights violations, as in any conflict, but the president wants peace and is open to any help to get the peace process going from its present logjam," the spokesman said.

Pope Benedict XVI speaks with Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse at the VaticanPope Benedict XVI speaks with Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse at the VaticanThe Vatican said both the Pontiff and Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, met with Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse.

"The need to respect human rights and resume the path of dialogue and negotiations (was confirmed in talks) as the only road to end violence bloodying the island," the Vatican said.

During the meeting with the Pontiff Sri Lanka President explained that the Government was fully committed to a negotiated settlement to the matters regarding the rights of the minorities and that the Government did not believe in any military solution to the issue.

The President said whatever military action being taken by the Government was meant to contain the threat posed by terrorism. The Vatican Secretary of State expressed his satisfaction about the religious amity that prevailed in Sri Lanka and especially at the absence of any religious wars in Sri Lanka for more than 500 years.

Talking about the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), President explained that the Committee was deliberating on proposals for a negotiated settlement and that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party will shortly present its own proposals to the APRC on power sharing.

In response to Cardinal Bertone's request on facilities be allowed for pilgrims to have easy access to the Madhu Church, President Rajapaksa said he was eager to provide such facilities, but was faced with the fact of Madhu Church being located in an area temporarily under LTTE control.

The visit of President Rajapaksa was marked by the pageantry associated with ceremonies related to the visit of Heads of State to the Vatican. Members of the Vatican's Swiss Guards provided a guard of honour to the President at the courtyard of the Vatican.

President, First Lady Madam Shiranthi Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan delegation were later taken on a special tour in St. Peter's Basilica, led by Head of the vatican's Congregation of the Liturgy Archbishop Dr. Malcolm Ranjith, where President led delegation viewed the Michael Angelo's sculpture of the 'Pieta', the sculpture of St. Peter, the tomb of Pope John Paul II and many other historic monuments.

Sri Lanka is mainly Buddhist and about seven percent are Christian. The Pope has repeatedly spoken about Sri Lanka in recent weeks. In his Easter message, the German Pontiff said that "only a negotiated solution can put an end to the conflict".

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam the Tamil separatist outfit of Sri Lanka have vowed to fight on for an independent state for minority Tamils in the north and east.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed since 1983, and more than 4,000 have died since 2005 when a ceasefire began to unravel.

- Asian Tribune -

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