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Pope reminds Sri Lankan bishops of urgency of reconciliation
07 May 2014 14:22 by Liz Dodd

Pope Francis has called on the Church in Sri Lanka to reconcile the country’s ethnic groups, which are still bitterly divided, five years after the end of the decades-long civil war.

In an address to the Sri Lankan Bishops’ Conference, in Rome for their ad limina visit on Saturday, Pope Francis said that a “new dawn of hope” had arisen since the war between Tamil militants and the Sinhalese Government ended in 2009.

But he warned that ethnic and religious tensions still split the country. The Church provided a “living image of unity”, he said, because it counted members of both Sri Lanka’s major ethnic groups – the Sinhalese and the Tamil – among its number.

“You know intimately the concerns and fears of the people, particularly how they can be marginalised and distrust one another. The faithful can provide an atmosphere of dialogue that seeks to construct a more just and equitable society,” he said, adding that the Church had already done much to support survivors of the country’s 25-year civil war.

Pope Francis also warned against rising religious extremism in the country, where Christians make up 7.4 per cent of the population of the majority-Buddhist population.