POPE WATCH: Sri Lankan religious leaders meet Pope Francis

January 13, 2015 1:52 PM

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Sri Lanka's religious stripes were all on colorful display for a meeting of representatives of the major faiths on the island. Traditional Hevisi drummers set the scene, followed by Buddhist chants, Hindu and Muslim benedictions, an ecumenical prayer by an Anglican bishop, then speeches by a Buddhist monk and the pope. The scene was far different in 1995 when Buddhist leaders boycotted John Paul's visit to protest his criticism of the Buddhist concept of salvation. In a sign of belonging, Francis sported a saffron-colored robe over his shoulders. Such robes are a cultural sign of honor among Tamils, a mainly Buddhist ethnic minority in Sri Lanka. The interreligious meeting was the final event of Francis's day.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the country's main Muslim political party, spoke in a statement about how Pope Francis' visit could affect its efforts to end anti-Muslim bigotry, particularly after last week's upset in the country's presidential elections.

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