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Thursday,  January 15, 2015 - 15.30 GMT
Pope prays to find inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace

 

His holiness Pope Francis delivering a sermon at the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the once war-ravaged North said he prays for all people of Sri Lanka to find inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace in the country.

Following the morning mass and canonization of Saint Joseph Vaz in Colombo Wednesday, Pope Francis in the afternoon arrived at the Madhu Church, where he greeted over 500,000 faithful who had gathered to hear him.

Recalling that many people, from north and south alike, were killed in the terrible violence and bloodshed during those years of war, the Pontiff said no Sri Lankan can forget the tragic events associated with this historic place.

"There are families here today which suffered greatly in the long conflict which tore open the heart of Sri Lanka... No Sri Lankan can forget the tragic events associated with this very place, or the sad day when the venerable statue of Mary, dating to the arrival of the earliest Christians in Sri Lanka, was taken away from her shrine," the Pope said.

Just as her statue came back to her shrine of Madhu after the war, he said he prays for all Sri Lankans to come home to God in a renewed spirit of reconciliation and fellowship.

"Through the intercession of Our Lady of Madhu, may all people find here inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all the children of this beloved land," the Pope told the gathering.

The historic shrine in Mannar district is an important place of pilgrimage for people of the different ethnic and religious communities in Sri Lanka, and is seen as a symbol of reconciliation in the post-conflict period.

Following the Lord's Prayer and after blessing the assembly with the image of Our Lady of Madhu, the Pope returned by Popemobile to the Madhu heliport, a journey of one and a half kilometers, greeting the crowds of faithful along the way. He then returned to Colombo.

Full Text of Pope's Marian Prayer at the Madhu Shrine (from Vatican radio):

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are in our Mother's house. Here she welcomes us into her home. At this shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, every pilgrim can feel at home, for here Mary brings us into the presence of her Son Jesus. Here Sri Lankans, Tamil and Sinhalese alike, come as members of one family. To Mary they commend their joys and sorrows, their hopes and needs. Here, in her home, they feel safe. They know that God is very near; they feel his love; they know his tender mercy. There are families here today which suffered greatly in the long conflict which tore open the heart of Sri Lanka. Many people, from north and south alike, were killed in the terrible violence and bloodshed of those years. No Sri Lankan can forget the tragic events associated with this very place, or the sad day when the venerable statue of Mary, dating to the arrival of the earliest Christians in Sri Lanka, was taken away from her shrine.

But Our Lady remained always with you. She is the mother of every home, of every wounded family, of all who are seeking to return to a peaceful existence. Today we thank her for protecting the people of Sri Lanka from so many dangers, past and present. Mary never forgot her children on this resplendent island. Just as she never left the side of her Son on the Cross, so she never left the side of her suffering Sri Lankan children.

Today we want to thank Our Lady for that presence. In the wake of so much hatred, violence and destruction, we want to thank her for continuing to bring us Jesus, who alone has the power to heal open wounds and to restore peace to broken hearts. But we also want to ask her to implore for us the grace of God's mercy. We ask also for the grace to make reparation for our sins and for all the evil which this land has known.

It is not easy to do this. Yet only when we come to understand, in the light of the Cross, the evil we are capable of, and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance. Only then can we receive the grace to approach one another in true contrition, offering and seeking true forgiveness. In this difficult effort to forgive and find peace, Mary is always here to encourage us, to guide us, to lead us. Just as she forgave her Son's killers at the foot of his Cross, then held his lifeless body in her hands, so now she wants to guide Sri Lankans to greater reconciliation, so that the balm of God's pardon and mercy may bring true healing to all.

Finally, we want to ask Mother Mary to accompany with her prayers the efforts of Sri Lankans from both Tamil and Sinhalese speaking communities to rebuild the unity which was lost. Just as her statue came back to her shrine of Madhu after the war, so we pray that all her Sri Lankan sons and daughters may come home to God in a renewed spirit of reconciliation and fellowship.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to be with you in Mary's house. Let us pray for one another. Above all, let us ask that this shrine may always be a house of prayer and a haven of peace. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Madhu, may all people find here inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all the children of this beloved land. Amen.

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