Pope Francis will visit Lanka as scheduled: Lanka

Pope Francis will visit Lanka as scheduled: Lanka

Pope Francis will visit Sri Lanka as scheduled in January, the government announced today, despite concerns from Vatican that the first Papal trip in 20 years could influence the snap presidential polls in the country in the same month.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's office said in a statement today that government is currently in the process of making all the necessary arrangements for Pope's visit.
"Pope Francis has graciously accepted the president's invitation, and the Vatican has confirmed that His Holiness will be visiting Sri Lanka in January 2015," the statement said.
All relevant government ministries are working with the Vatican and the local Catholic church to finalise the arrangements for the visit, it added.

A statement of Vatican website last week had said the church asks the presidential election to be postponed at least to the end of January to avoid any kind of exploitation.
Rajapaksa seek his third term in the snap election expected to be held in January. He visited the Pope personally to extend the invitation.

The last visit of a Pope to Sri Lanka was in January 1995.Sri Lanka would hold a snap presidential election in January, nearly two years ahead of schedule that could send the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa into office for a record third term.

Rajapaksa, 68, came to power in 2005 and retained the presidency in 2010 on a wave of popularity after the Tamil Tigers were defeated in 2009, ending a nearly three-decade war.
The 2009 victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) helped Rajapaksa secure more than two-thirds of parliamentary seats, enabling him to amend the Constitution that had capped the presidency for a leader to two terms.

Rajapaksa's current term ends in November 2016, but according to the Sri Lankan Constitution, he can call for an early election after November 19 this year.

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