The visit of Your Holiness gives me an opportunity to receive your blessings as I commence my term of office, said President Maithripala Sirisena welcoming the Holy Father at Bandaranaike International Airport this morning (Jan. 13).
The President, wishing the Pope a most fruitful and memorable journey in Sri Lanka sought the blessings of the Holy Father on the people of Sri Lanka and requested his prayers for the peace progress and prosperity of the people.
Following is the full text of the welcome speech by President Sirisena;
It is a happy and joyful occasion to welcome Your Holiness on behalf of my Government and the people of Sri Lanka. Itís indeed significant that Your Holiness commences the apostolic journey to Asia with a visit to Sri Lanka. Your visit is also especially significant to me personally as I have been elected to office of President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka only a few days ago. The visit of Your Holiness gives me an opportunity to receive your blessings as I commence my term of office.
Your Holiness, my government is promoting peace and friendship among our people after overcoming a cruel terrorist conflict. We have people who believe in religious, tolerance, and co-existence based on our centuries old religious heritage.
I am extremely pleased that during this visit you will canonize Sri Lankaís first Saint Joseph Vass, a Catholic missionary from India. He made a significant constitution to the growth of the Catholic faith in this country. Your Holiness, our two countries have played a significant role in fostering two of the world major religions; Christianity and Buddhism.
I look forward to further strengthen the bilateral relations that exist between Sri Lanka and the Holy See. On behalf of the government and the people of Sri Lanka I wish you a most fruitful and memorable journey in our beautiful country. I seek the blessings of Your Holiness on the people of Sri Lanka and request your prayers for the peace progress and prosperity of our people.