Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pope canonizes St. Joseph Vaz, Sri Lanka's first saint

On the second day of Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit to Sri Lanka, Vatican Radio’s envoys on the trip with the Holy Father, say that authorities have told them that over 500,000 people attended the Wednesday Canonization of Sri Lanka’s first saint, Joseph Vaz. 

Catholics in Sri Lanka account for only 6 percent of the 20 million strong population. The majority of the people are Buddhist.

Speaking in English, Pope Francis told the canonization crowd that followed him attentively that St. Joseph Vaz was an example of religious tolerance who is still relevant to Sri Lanka and to the world. "Saint Joseph shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace," he said in his homily.

 “Saint Joseph Vaz was first, an exemplary priest.  Here today with us are many priests and religious, both men and women, who, like Joseph Vaz, are consecrated to the service of God and neighbour. I encourage each of you to look to Saint Joseph as a sure guide.  He teaches us how to go out to the peripheries, to make Jesus Christ everywhere known and loved,” Pope Francis said.

The Holy Father then continued: “Saint Joseph Vaz lived in a period of rapid and profound transformation; Catholics were a minority and often divided within; there was occasional hostility, even persecution, from without.  And yet, because he was constantly united with the crucified Lord in prayer, he could become for all people a living icon of God’s mercy and reconciling love,” Said Pope Francis.

Other reasons why Saint Joseph is relevant is because he “shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace,” The Pope emphasized.

Further sitll,  the Church not only in Sri Lanka but the world over is always at the service of society. The Church “gladly and generously serves all members of society.  She makes no distinction of race, creed, tribe, status or religion in the service she provides through her schools, hospitals, clinics, and many other charitable works.  All she asks in return is the freedom to carry out this mission.  Religious freedom is a fundamental human right.  Each individual must be free, alone or in association with others, to seek the truth, and to openly express his or her religious convictions, free from intimidation and external compulsion,” Pope Francis said.

~ Excerpted from Vatican Radio

Pope Francis: homily for canonization of St Joseph Vaz

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