Official insist Francis’s trip next month is on schedule

Pope Francis will visit Sri Lanka as planned next month, local Church officials have said.

They said the trip would go ahead despite calls by Catholic clergy and Christian organisations to postpone the visit because it is being politicised as the country prepares for a presidential election on January 8, days before Francis’s visit on January 13-15.

Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando, director of the National Catholic Centre for Social Communications in Sri Lanka and media coordinator for the visit, said: “We never said that we will change or cancel the visit. It is on schedule.

“Individuals and groups may have expressed their views and concerns. But [the schedule] stands as it is,”

Bishop Nobert Andradi of Anuradhapura, former secretary-general of the Sri Lankan Catholic bishops’ conference, told the Catholic News Service (CNS): “Yes, everything is on track.”

Earlier this month Bishop Andradi was quoted in the Divaina daily in Sinhala as saying that the timing of the visit was “not appropriate” because of the election.

“My sentiments were not properly reported in the article. I wrote a rejoinder to them, but it has not been published yet,” Bishop Andradi told CNS.