His Holiness Pope Francis canonized Blessed Joseph Vaz, the first Saint of Sri Lanka at the Holy Mass held at the Galle Face Green, Colombo.
"Saint Joseph shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace," the Pontiff said.
The Pope said Christians should follow the example of Joseph Vaz to build peace, justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
Joseph Vaz, who was captured as a suspected spy after he came into Sri Lanka in disguise was born in 1651 in India's Goa, then a Portuguese colony.
He traveled south at the age of 36, dressed as a beggar, to a country then divided into kingdoms after hearing about the persecution of Catholics by the Dutch, and worked for years under the protection of a Buddhist king. Later he was captured and accused of espionage for Portugal under the guise of religion.
King Vimaladharmasuriya II protected him from the Dutch and Vaz's reputation was further bolstered when he was said to have brought rain during a drought and by his work with the sick.
Vaz remained in Kandy until his death in 1711, by which time the Church says he had converted 30,000 people and created a network of priests, almost single-handedly re-establishing Catholicism in Ceylon.
Vaz was beatified by Pope John Paul II during a visit to Sri Lanka 20 years ago.
His Holiness Pope Francis holds a Holy Mass at Galle Face Green, Colombo. (Pix by : President's Media)