He said the island nation cannot fully heal from a quarter of a century of ethnic civil war without pursuing the truth about abuses that were committed.
In a show of ethnic co-existence, however, his welcoming ceremony at Colombo Airport featured traditional dancers and drummers from both majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic groups, as well as a children’s choir serenading him in both of Sri Lanka’s languages – as well as Italian and English.
With 40 elephants dressed in colourful costumes lining the airport road behind him, Francis said that finding true peace after so much bloodshed “can only be done by overcoming evil with good, and by cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace”.
He did not specifically mention Sri Lanka’s refusal to co-operate with a UN investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the final months of the war.
But he said: “The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth.”