Pope Francis on Wednesday canonized 17th century missionary Joseph Vaz, giving Sri Lanka its first saint, in a huge event held near the oceanfront in Colombo.
The pope told the hushed crowd that Vaz was an example of religious tolerance relevant to the island nation, Reuters reported.
“Saint Joseph shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace,” he said in his homily.
Vaz, who was captured as a suspected spy after he crept into Sri Lanka in disguise was born in 1651 in India’s Goa, then a Portuguese colony.
He travelled south at the age of 36, dressed as a beggar, to a country then divided into kingdoms after hearing about the persecution of Catholics by the Dutch, and worked for years under the protection of a Buddhist king.
The Pope said Christians should follow the example of Vaz to build peace, justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
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