Pope Francis gives Sri Lanka its first pope before huge crowd

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Colombo, Jan 14 (ANI): Pope Francis gave Sri Lanka its first saint on Wednesday at a Mass for hundreds of thousands of people packed on a Colombo oceanfront, in a climax to a 300-year campaign to recognize the holiness of Indian-born missionary Joseph Vaz. Vaz, who was captured as a suspected spy after he crept into the tropical island in disguise was born in 1651 in Goa. He traveled 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. Meanwhile, Pope Francis touched upon the need for religious freedom at the mass. Francis, speaking slowly in English, said Christians should follow the example of Vaz to build peace, justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

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