Pope makes appeals for Sri Lanka, Libya, Ukraine
By Christopher Wells
“I unite myself to the sorrow of the Sri Lankan people, who continue to suffer the effects of political and economic instability,” Pope Francis said on Sunday, following the weekly Angelus.
Following weeks of popular demonstrations, groups of protesters in Sri Lanka stormed the presidential palace and other government buildings on Saturday, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Later in the day, both the president and Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe agreed to resign, but protest leaders have said they will continue to occupy their official residences until they actually leave office.
Meanwhile, opposition political parties are set to meet on Sunday to discuss the formation of a new government.
In his remarks on Sunday, Pope Francis, in concert with the country’s Bishop, renewed his appeal for peace, and “implored” Sri Lanka’s leaders “not to ignore the cry of the poor and the needs of the people.”
Pope Francis also addressed “a special thought to the people of Lybia, in particular to the young people and to all those who are suffering because of the serious social and economic problems in the country.” He called for “ever new and convincing solutions” to those problems, “with the help of the international community, through constructive dialogue and national reconciliation.”
Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, which led to internal struggles that only ended with a cease-fire in 2020. A presidential election originally scheduled for December 2021 and delayed till June 2022 has still not taken place. Earlier this month, protesters stormed the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk and burned the building; since then, protests have continued throughout the country.
Turning to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Pope Francis once again pleaded that God might “show the way to put an end to this senseless war.”
Expressing his closeness to the Ukrainian people, “who are daily tormented by brutal attacks that the common people are paying for,” the Pope assured them of his prayers “for all the families, especially for the victims, the wounded, those who are sick” and for “the elderly and for the children.”
In the latest news from Ukraine, at least 15 people were killed when a Russian rocket hit an apartment building in the eastern Ukraine town of Chasiv Yar on Saturday night, and more than 20 people may still be trapped in the rubble. The rocket assault is the latest in a recent burst of high-casualty attacks on civilian structures.
Finally, the Pope’s thoughts turned to “Sea Sunday,” observed each year on the second Sunday in July. “Let us remember all seafarers with esteem and gratitude for their precious work,” the Pope said, “as well as the chaplains and volunteers of ‘Stella Maris’,” an apostolate that provides pastoral care and support for seafarers and their families.
At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis offered a special prayer for “those seafarers who find themselves stranded in war zones,” entrusting them to the Blessed Virgin Mary “so that they might return home.”
Earlier this week, in a Message for Sea Sunday, Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, highlighted some of the challenges facing seafarers today, focusing especially on the importance of shore leave as “crucial” for seafarers’ wellbeing.