Pope Francis bids farewell to Sri Lanka, Philippines up next

Pope Francis departed Sri Lanka for the Philippines on Thursday morning after an eventful trip to the island country.
The pope walked down the red carpet at the International Airport of Colombo, saying farewell to Catholic bishops and Sri Lankan officials.
As is Pope Francis’ tradition on his trips, he carried his own bag.
The path to the papal plane was lined by an honor guard of Sri Lankans in traditional dress bearing shields. Ahead of the Pope’s arrival, dozens of children gathered to wave the flags of Sri Lanka and of the Holy See.
The pope did not make any remarks, stated a Catholic News Agency report.
Pope Francis’ last stop before the airport was at the Benedict XVI Cultural Institute in Bolawalana, where he blessed the Chapel of Our Lady of Lanka.
Pope Francis was welcomed at the instiute by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo and Father Mahamalge Quintus Fernando, the institute’s rector. Among the thousands of people gathered were about 250 construction workers who helped build the institute, some local fishermen and a choir.
Cardinal Ranjith launched the project to create the Benedict XVI Institute in 2011. The institute aims to collaborate with the agencies of Sri Lanka to rebuild the nation after 30 years of civil war. The institutes will have departments in interreligious dialogue and cooperation, foreign languages, and higher studies. The higher studies department will focus on areas like theology, philosophy, economics and business.
Pope Francis’ Sri Lankan trip began Jan. 12. It included meetings with religious leaders in the majority Buddhist country and the canonization of St. Joseph Vaz, a 17th century priest who is now the first recognized Sri Lankan saint.
“His undivided love for God opened him to love for his neighbor; he ministered to those in need, whoever and wherever they were,” the Pope said at St. Joseph Vaz’s canonization Mass in Colombo Jan. 14. “His example continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka today. She gladly and generously serves all members of society.”
Pope Francis will be in the Philippines until Jan. 19. He could draw over 5 million Mass attendees in the strongly Catholic country.

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