PopeWatch: Saint Joseph Vaz

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

 

In Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Pope Francis canonized Saint Joseph Vaz.

 

Bells rang out and the crowd erupted in applause when Francis declared the Rev. Joseph Vaz a saint at the start of the service. Vaz was a 17th century Indian missionary who revived the faith in Sri Lanka during a time of anti-Catholic persecution by Dutch colonists, who were Protestant Calvinists.

The Catholic Church considers Vaz a great model for today’s faithful, ministering to the faithful of both of Sri Lanka’s main ethnic groups and putting himself at great risk to spread the faith.

Francis told the crowd that Vaz lived at a time — like today — when Catholics were a minority and often persecuted, and yet he ministered to all, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.

“St. Joseph shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace,” Francis said in his homily, delivered in English and then translated for the crowd in both Sinhalese and Tamil. “As the life of St. Joseph Vaz teaches us, genuine worship of God bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, respect for the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all.”

He said the Sri Lankan church today only wants to continue Vaz’s legacy of service to all, asking only for the freedom to preach in return. “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right,” he said.

To underscore that point, Francis gave Sri Lanka’s bishops a replica of a 17th century decree from the then-king of Kandy allowing Catholic conversions of Buddhists — a somewhat provocative message given the recent upswing in violence against Muslims and some Protestant churches by Buddhist extremists who want Sri Lanka exclusively Buddhist. Continue Reading