COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Sept 14, (AP): Pope Francis may make a 17th century priest Sri Lanka’s first Roman Catholic saint during his trip next year, making good on his promise to give Asia more saints as models for the faithful, Sri Lankan and Vatican officials said Friday. Francis plans to visit the island nation Jan 13-15 and then travel onto the Philippines to meet with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
The archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, said he hoped that the Vatican would give final approval to the sainthood case of the Rev. Joseph Vaz so that Francis himself could celebrate the canonization Mass at Colombo’s Galle Face Green. “We are hopeful,” Ranjith said. Vaz was born in Goa, India, in 1651 but chose to work in Sri Lanka amid persecution of Catholics by Dutch colonial rulers, who were Calvinists.
Vaz is credited with having revived the Catholic faith in the country, using disguises and learning the local Sinhala and Tamil languages to meet secretly with underground Catholics. He died in 1711. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the final hurdle - approval of a miracle attributed to Vaz’s intercession - was before the Vatican’s saint-making office. “It’s possible that the decision of the congregation and that of the pope might come relatively quickly, so that it will be possible to celebrate the canonization during the Sri Lanka trip,” he said.