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Sri Lanka

Layman brings life of Pope Francis to Sri Lanka

Journalist's website and new book allow Sinhala-speaking people to follow the pope's special mission

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

Updated: March 28, 2019 04:00 AM GMT
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Layman brings life of Pope Francis to Sri Lanka

Saman Kapila Wijesuriya (right) launches his book Vathikana Sulaga on March 19 in Colombo with Father Benedict Joseph, Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Tot (standing), Father Aloysius Pieris and former Anglican Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe. (ucanews.com photo)

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Journalist Saman Kapila Wijesuriya writes about the day-to-day activities and mission of Pope Francis on his news website Vathikana Sulaga (Vatican Winds).

He began a blog in the Sinhala language in February 2015 because he felt the Sinhala Catholic media had limited capacity to report and analyze these events.

The website covers the pope’s views on justice and peace issues, non-discriminatory dialogue and goodwill with other churches, world issues, solemnities and feasts, his reform program, his message of mercy and charity, apostolic visits and his call for the care of our common home — the earth.

"It also shows how he fearlessly challenges the world with a true Christian spirit. My mission is to bring that message to Sinhala-speaking Catholics and non-Catholics in Sri Lanka," says Wijesuriya, who now lives in Canada.

“I do this voluntarily and use my free time and after-work hours for the website. For the developed world, time is money. Some argue that if I do a second job, I can earn some extra money too. True. That is the temptation against which I fight time and again, but I know that I am doing this for the Church and it gives me joy.”

Wijesuriya often works on his website until midnight despite being in poor health.

Catholics in Sri Lanka prepared for the apostolic visit of Pope Francis in 2015 — when he canonized St. Joseph Vaz, the first Sri Lankan saint — with a lot of love and expectation. However, during and after the visit, it was observed that Sri Lanka’s Catholics had little or no knowledge about the person and the pope’s heart-warming and renewing message.

Wijesuriya says the pope is challenging the Church and its leaders to shed all the power, money, glory, grandeur and magnificence it has acquired over the last 1,500 years.

A man reads 'Vathikana Sulaga' at the book’s launch in Colombo. (ucanews.com photo)


He argues that to evangelize the modern world, which is centered on grabbing money, power and glory, the Church must go back to its origins.

“Rather than thinking that the church hierarchy is the center of the universe and all others are revolving around it, it has to accept the reality that Jesus is at the center and the whole Church — bishops, priests, religious and the laity — revolves around Him," Wijesuriya says.

He sees his mission as to inform and educate his Sinhala-speaking readers about the vision, mission and the ministry of Pope Francis.

“I see that even Sinhala Catholic publications do not inform and educate Catholics about the challenging message. For instance, the year of mercy activities, his challenging apostolic exhortations and his encyclical on the environment did not get sufficient coverage,” he says.

Wijesuriya, who now works for the government of Alberta, was a full-time journalist in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

He started his career by working as a producer for the Sinhala service of Radio Veritas Asia in Manila in 1987. He returned to Sri Lanka in 1994 and joined the government-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) as a news editor in Sinhala and English languages. He produced and presented current affairs programs at SLBC, specializing in international affairs. He also presented the Saturday Ayubowan and Newspaper Headlines programs.

Wijesuriya received further training at Radio Nederland Training Centre in Hilversum and Deutsche Welle Training Centre in Cologne.

In 2005, he was hired by the then new FM station NETH FM radio in Colombo as its first news manager. When he emigrated to Canada in 2009, NETH news was second in the country’s radio ratings.

Wijesuriya, who also wrote for Catholic Sinhala weekly newspaper Gnanartha Pradeepaya and presented Catholic radio programs, is married to former Radio Veritas producer Champa Fernando.

He launched a book named Vathikana Sulaga in Colombo on March 19, the sixth anniversary of Francis’ papal inauguration in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

“I wanted to preserve this information for anyone who would like to study the papacy of Pope Francis. That is why I decided to publish the website’s articles in a book,” Wijesuriya says.

“This book is not Catholic or Christian or a book with a religious category. Like Pope Francis, it is addressing everybody of every race and religion.

“It addresses issues important to everyone in every category and every walk of life in society. That is why I would invite all those who are interested in the problems of the world to read this book.”

Wijesuriya says Pope Francis is calling for a “poor Church and a Church for the poor.” He is advising priests to be servants, not lords or administrators. He advises them to leave their comfort zones to seek lost sheep.

Pope Francis is surprising the world and the Church with his Christ-centered and Gospel-based initiatives. He challenges the world with Jesus’ messages of mercy and love and through his style of living and teaching, he says.

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