COLOMBO, Sri Lanka— Christian and non-Christian Sri Lankans numbering in the tens of thousands came out to greet Pope Francis on his visit to their nation, to canonize their first-ever saint.
The crowd in the predominantly Buddhist nation looked upon the pope with admiration, as he canonized Joseph Vaz – a priest who fervently fought against the persecution of Catholics by the island’s 17th-century Protestant Dutch rulers – in a seaside ceremony held on January 14, at the oceanfront of the capital city of Colombo.
As impressive as the turnout in Sri-Lanka was, however, the Pope’s aides from the Vatican couldn’t help but caution him: “You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till you get to the Philippines.”
“Ah, the Philippines. Of course, of course, Filipinos will welcome the Pope by the millions,” said the Vatican’s spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi.
With papal fever ever on the rise in the Philippines, especially on the heels of Pope Francis’ successful Sr-Lankan trip, a throng of devotees in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation is expected to show up for the pontiff’s scheduled activities.
“Millions will turn out for the Pope there,” Alic Bonneton of French Catholic Television commented; as he noted that amongst the media, there is a high level of expectancy surrounding the Holy Father’s visit to the Philippines.
This is Pope Francis second Asian tour, but his first time to the Philippines.