Buddhist composes symphony to mark Pope’s Sri Lanka visit
.- In an effort for religious reconciliation, the Sri Lankan government has commissioned a symphony from a Buddhist composer to commemorate Pope Francis’ voyage to the nation which will take place in January.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo presided over a Sept. 17 performance of the Soul of Christ Symphony, composed and directed by the nation’s renowed composer Vajira Indika Karunasena, who is a Buddhist.
“The visit of the Holy Father is a landmark occasion for Sri Lanka,” Cardinal Ranjith said. “We warmly welcome Pope Francis to our country, which is rich in religious and cultural values.”
“We must use this occasion to demonstrate to the world our values.”
The symphony was commissioned by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the nation’s public radio network. The idea for the symphony was that of the SLBC’s chairman, Hudson Samarasinghe.
The symphony has also been released as a CD in Sri Lanka in preparation for Pope Francis’ Jan. 13-14 visit, which will be the third time a Roman Pontiff has made an apostolic voyage to the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.”
Cardinal Ranjith cited the importance of religious reconciliation in his address, and emphasized that the Pope’s visit “is an honor for Sri Lanka.”
“Pope Francis is rich with inner, spiritual strength, and that is visible daily in the way he desires to visit and meet the people, the way he talks, and how he treats everyone alike,” he said.
“He shows a great vocation in discipleship, that is, to show God’s love to all, to embrace everyone in that love, and show respect and dignity to everyone equally,” Cardinal Ranjith added.
The cardinal thanked the SLBC, as well as Samarasinghe and Karunasena for helping to make the Pope’s visit a fruitful one.
Rambukkana Siddharatha Thero, a respected Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, also complimented the SLBC and Samarasinghe on their efforts for religious reconciliation.
In addition to the presentation of the symphony, the event included performances by Angeline Gunatillake of a tribute song to Pope Francis, and a performance by Chilaw of a Marian hymn composed by one of its members, Juan Pinto.
Priests, artists, musicians, and actors also took part in the event.
Cardinal Ranjith outlined the schedule for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit. He will arrive in Colombo the morning of Jan. 13, visiting the nunciature and the archbishop’s residence to meet with the Sri Lankan bishops, and then will visit president Mahinda Rajapaksa and religious leaders.
The cardinal also noted that a commorative stamp will be issued that day.
The following day, Pope Francis will canonized Bl. Joseph Vaz, a 17th century Oratorian known as the “Apostle of Ceylon.”
The Pope will also visit the Madhu Shrine for a prayer service, then return to Colombo to leave for the Philippines the next day.