Tuesday, January 13, 2015

On the way to PH, Pope urges respect for human rights in Sri Lanka, Vatican denies reports of attack warnings


Vatican denies reports of attack warnings

Reuters, by Philip Pullella


Pope Francis celebrates a solemn mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican
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Pope Francis celebrates a solemn mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican January 11, 2015. REUTERS/Osservatore …

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican denied press reports on Monday that it had received specific warnings from Israeli and U.S. intelligence services that it was a probable next target of an Islamist attack.
La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera and other Italian papers reported on Monday that the CIA and Mossad had warned Italian and Vatican authorities that the Vatican may be a target. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said there were normal contacts among security services but the Holy See had been given no "concrete and specific" information over any risk.
Pope Francis on Monday condemned last week's killings by Islamist militants in Paris and urged Muslim leaders to denounce interpretations of religion that use God's name to justify violence.
"Violence is always the product of a falsification of religion, its use a pretext for ideological schemes whose only goal is power over others," the pope said in an annual meeting with diplomats from 180 countries accredited to the Vatican, a speech informally known as his "State of the World" address.
Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began on Wednesday when gunmen attacked the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
"I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion that attempt to justify such acts of violence," the pope said. Full story on Yahoo

Pope urges respect for human rights on Sri Lanka trip

AFP by Claire Cozens, Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere


Colombo (AFP) - Pope Francis urged respect for human rights in Sri Lanka as he began a two-nation Asia tour on the island Tuesday, bearing a message of peace and reconciliation after a decades-long civil war.

The Argentine pope's second visit to Asia will also take in the Philippines, a bastion of Christianity in the region, where he is set to attract one of the biggest-ever gatherings for a head of the Catholic Church.
His visit, days after the surprise election of a new president, will focus on unity in a country struggling to heal the wounds of a 37-year conflict that pitted troops against Tamil separatists.
But in mostly Buddhist Sri Lanka, which has seen a rise in religious violence in recent years, he will focus on the role of the Church in a diverse society.
- 'Pursuit of truth' -
"The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth," said the pope, who was greeted at Colombo's main airport by new President Maithripala Sirisena.
Only around six percent of the 20-million-strong population is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic groups.
Sirisena has pledged to protect religious freedoms and promised a new culture of tolerance on the island.
On Wednesday, which has been declared a national holiday, he will hold a mass on the Colombo seafront that is expected to attract around one million people.
He will canonise Sri Lanka's first saint, a 17th century missionary, during the open-air service.
- Special interest in Asia -
The pope's trip comes just five months after he visited South Korea, signalling the huge importance the Vatican places on Asia and its potential for more followers.
The region holds a special interest for Pope Francis, who as a young priest considered becoming a missionary in Japan.
On Thursday he will fly on to the Philippines, where anticipation has been building for months, with the pope dominating the media and sparking a merchandise frenzy.
The Philippines is one of the Church's modern success stories, counting roughly 80 percent of the former Spanish colony's 100 million people as Catholics. This has helped to offset waning influence in Europe and the United States.
He will meet survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which claimed 7,350 lives when it destroyed entire farming and fishing communities in 2013.
The pope will celebrate mass with tens of thousands of survivors at the airport in Tacloban, one of the worst-hit cities. Full story on Yahoo

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