13 February 2014, The Tablet

Francis accepts invitation to visit Sri Lanka

Pope Francis has told Sri Lankan pilgrims to the Vatican he would like to visit their country, but the dates for such a trip are still uncertain.

“I thank Cardinal (Malcolm) Ranjith for the invitation to visit Sri Lanka. I accept it and believe the Lord will give us this grace,” he said on Saturday.

Francis made the announcement to some 15,000 people who had gathered in St Peter’s Basilica for a Mass led by the cardinal, a former Vatican official who is now Archbishop of Colombo. L’Osservatore Romano said they represented the more than 200,000 Sri Lankans living in Italy.

If the papal visit to Sri Lanka takes place this year it would mark the 75th anniversary of the consecration of the nation’s Catholic Church to the Virgin Mary.

There is speculation that the trip could be made in conjunction with a papal visit currently under study for South Korea.

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