President Mahinda Rajapaksa beginning a three-day visit to Italy and the Vatican arrived in Fiumicino Airport in Rome last evening (2). He is accompanied by First Lady Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa.
Head of Vatican Protocol Office, Msgr. Jose Avelino Bettencourt, Sri Lankan Ambassador in Italy Mr. Nawalage Bennet Cooray and Sri Lankan Ambassador in Holy See and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Mr. Ravinatha Aryasinha warmly received President Rajapaksa at the airport, Presidential Spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said.
President Rajapaksa will have an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis 1 at the Holy See today (3). The Pope is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in January next year.
Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II visited Sri Lanka in 1970 and 1995 respectively.
Chief Justice Mohan Peiris, Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of State Resources and Enterprise Development Mr. Dayasritha Tissera, Minister of Social Services Mr. Felix Perera, Deputy Minister of External Affairs Mr. Neomal Perera, Minister of Coconut Development and Janatha Estate Development Mr. Anthony Victor Perera, Monitoring MP of the Ministry of External Affairs Mr. Sajin de Vass Gunawardena Chief Opposition Whip Mr. John Amaratunga, and Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs, Mrs. Kshenuka Senewiratne are also accompanying the President during this tour.