Encourages Resuming Path of Dialogue and Negotiation
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 20, 2007 (ZENIT.org).- Benedict XVI asked the president of Sri Lanka to respect human rights and to resume dialogue to help end violence in that strife-torn Asian nation.
The Vatican Information Service reported: "Today the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Mahinda Rajapaksa, president of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
"In the course of the talks -- and in the light of the current situation in Sri Lanka -- the need was reiterated to respect human rights and resume the path of dialogue and negotiation as the only way to put an end to the violence that is bloodying the island."
The meeting lasted about 20 minutes. The president was accompanied by a 16-person delegation, as well as his wife and one of his sons.
The country has been struck by violence since 1983 when the rebel Tamil Tigers began fighting for an independent state.
The Vatican said in its report of the meeting: "The Catholic Church, which offers a significant contribution to the life of the country, will intensify her delicate task of forming consciences with the sole ambition of favoring the common good, reconciliation and peace."
Catholics comprise 7% of Sri Lanka's 21 million people. Buddhists comprise 70%.
After his audience with Benedict XVI, the president went on to meet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state.