Pope Francis arrives in Sri Lanka to thunderous welcome
Pope Francis has just begun his Apostolic Visit to Sri Lanka. Radio Vatican’s envoy, Fr. Louis Xystus Jerome sent us this report:
The moment he alighted from the flight, a boy and a girl welcomed the Holy Father with a garland of flowers – white and yellow in colour, signifying the colours of the Vatican.
Then the new President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena and his wife welcomed him, followed by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and other dignitaries. As the Holy Father was walking along the red carpet, a baby elephant was there to welcome him. Children dressed in traditional attire representing different religions waved miniature flags of the Vatican and Sri Lanka. Dancers on either side of the red carpet were performing traditional dances.
When the Holy Father along with the President took the podium, anthems of the Vatican and Sri Lanka were played. During these anthems, the soldiers saluted the Holy Father.
After this, there was the 21 gun salute normally reserved for heads of state. Following this, a group of children, young men and women – all clad in blue, sang the welcome song in various languages – English, Sinhala, Tamil and Italian.
The new President Sirisena gave the welcome address. This is the very first public speech of the new president -welcoming the Holy Father as the first dignitary visiting Sri Lanka. The Holy Father then delivered his first speech in Sri Lanka. The very first point that the Holy Father made was, that this visit was pastoral. After the welcome speeches and ceremony, the president introduced the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers to Pope Francis. Then Cardinal Ranjith introduced members of the Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka.
The welcome ceremony came to a close with the Holy Father writing a few lines and signing in the Golden Book.