Pope Francis arriving in majority Buddhist Sri Lanka must apologize for the crimes of the Catholic Church?

Pope Francis

The head of the Catholic Church and head of the sovereign nation known as Vatican City is to arrive in Sri Lanka in January 2015. It will be the 2nd visit of a Pope to a majority Buddhist nation wherein Catholics comprise just over 1million of a 20million population of which 14million are Sinhalese Buddhists. It is also a good time for the Pope to make a long overdue apology for the crimes committed to Sri Lanka by the Church and the Portuguese an apology that deserves to be extended to all of Asia and in particular India.

What is unusual about the Vatican is that it is the only religion in the world to be granted the right to a sovereign state and the Pope is the head of the sovereign government (the Vatican). This makes the Pope in par with any President or Prime Minister of another sovereign country and Catholicism the only religion to be recognized with statehood. While the heads of the other countries take care of the needs of all communities in their respective countries, as head of the Vatican, the Pope is concerned ONLY about the promotion and fostering of Roman Catholic faith. This differentiation is extremely important for no matter what speeches are given those have no legal binding to the real aims and objectives of the Catholic Church.

The Church and the Pope have apologized for crimes committed by the Church. Sri Lanka asking for a similar apology is nothing that should thus surprise anyone.

The Pope has apologized to the Jews, Galileo, women, Europeans, Muslims killed by the Crusades, the Chinese for the role of the missionaries, the slave trade in Africa. Some apologies like the ones to Canada’s native people have come without mentioning what the crimes committed by the Church were. Some apologies as in the case of Galilieo came 359 years too late while the apology for the execution of religious reformer Jan Hus came 584 years later!

The apologies by the Church also reveals the atrocities the Church has been involved in and include : murder of 1.6million Jews, slave trade, male domination, burning people on the stake, Church stand against women’s rights, forcible removal of aboriginal children from their mothers, abuse towards Eskimos and native Indian Americans, sexual abuse by priests.

But why has the Pope not apologized to India for the Goa Inquisition and to Sri Lanka for 153 years of crimes?

The apology to India for the Goa Inquisition is yet to come and that inquisition was extended to Sri Lanka as well.  Is it too much to ask that Pope Francis arriving to a majority Buddhist nation that has not objected to the canonization of Joseph Vaz, should extend a gesture by apologizing for the crimes committed by the Church to the Buddhists in particular as well as to the Hindus and Muslims in Sri Lanka because together they make up 98% of Sri Lanka’s present population?

The right of Sri Lanka to seek apology from Pope Francis falls well within the declaration made by Pope John Paul II on 12 March 2000 when he said “Christians have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions’. We now want to hear from Pope Francis himself that these policies and attitudes have actually changed in the present context. We feel we are not asking too much.

Therefore, we feel both India and Sri Lanka deserve to be included into the Pope’s apology list.

The Portuguese Roman Catholics ruled Sri Lanka from 1505 to 1658. One Hundred and Fifty Three Years the country suffered irreparable damage.

In case many jump to declare that these allegations are all hallucinations and figments of the imagination of non-Catholics, it would be good for critics to read the works of Fernao de Queiro, Friar Paulo da Trinidade whose historical chronicles corroborate with the local accounts.

The crimes committed in Sri Lanka were by the Roman Catholic Emperor of Portugal, His Viceroy in Goa & the Roman Catholic priests in Sri Lanka. Together these are the crimes they committed:


  • Buddhists / Hindus / Islam to Catholicism but prohibiting Catholics from converting to Buddhism/Hinduism/Islam
  • Imposing Catholicism violently upon Buddhists and Hindus
  • Examples of churches built over temples – Kochchikade Church in Colombo, Madhu Church was a Pattini devale. Fellippe de Oliveria, conqueror of Jaffna had destroyed 500 temples. Filipe De Oliveriya punished all those who practiced anything anti-Christian. The Society of Jesus – the Roman Catholic missionary, constructed nearly 30 Catholic churches by vandalizing and demolishing Hindu temples. He introduced compulsory proselytizing. Franciscan Friars converted more 6000 Tamils to Christianity (Prof. Endagama)
  • Papal Bulls of 1452, 1455, 1456 sanctioned Portugal to acquire territory and convert heathens (Lorna Devaraja). Coastal communities (Jaffna, Mannar, Negombo, Chilaw) underwent mass conversions (That anti-Portuguese feeling in Lanka) Prof Abeyasinghe of University of Colombo, notes that in the period 1624-1626, the Franciscans alone converted 52,000 Jaffna Tamils.“According to detailed statistics furnished in Friar Paulo da Trinidade’s work, there were in Jaffna in 1634, over 70,000 adult Christians and children being instructed in the faith under 25 parishes of the Franciscans alone.” “Taking that figure as a rough basis for the calculation of the total number of Christians in Jaffna under the care of the 42 parishes, one gets the figure 115,000,” he concludes. Antonio Bocarro’s report of 1634 states that in Jaffna, “nearly all natives are Christians”. Fernao de Queiros, the renowned Portuguese chronicler of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) had described Jaffna as being “wholly Christian”.

Demolishing all heathen places of worship

  • Portuguese historian Father de Queyroz gives a list of all Buddhist temples razed to the ground on top of which Catholic Churches are erected.
  • Examples of temples destroyed 1000 pillared temples in Devundara, Trincomalee, Kailasanathar Temple (Nallur), in 1575 Muneswaram Temple, Chilapam (Chillaw), Saman Devale in Ratnapura, Kelaniya temple (Dr. Susantha Goonetilleke). in 1575 Muneswaram Temple, Chilapam (Chillaw), in 1588 Vishnu Temple in Devinuwera, Tirukethieswaram Temple, Mathoddam (Matota) and in 1622 Tiru Konesar Temple, Thirukonamalai (Trincomalee), Nallur Kandasamy Kovil razed to the down and replaced with a Christian church at Nallur and a fort in Jaffna There are hardly many Buddhist temples over 150 years old in areas once ruled by the Portuguese.

Killing non-Catholic clergy

  • Scores of Buddhist monks / Hindu priests were slain
  • According to MU de Silva from 1574 onwards Buddhist and Hindu temples were all destroyed along the West coast and monks/priests had to either flee or were killed

Crimes against Muslims

  • Crimes of Captain General Constantino De Sa de Noronha under orders by King Philip of Portugal expelled the Muslims. Muslims were saved by King Senerath (ruler of the Kandyan Kingdom) who rescued and settled the Muslims in Batticoloa – the wrath against Muslims was because of their refusal to convert and because Muslims posed a threat in trade

Looting, ransacking and destruction of Buddhist schools (pirivenas) and Buddhist mini universities

  • Sunethra Devi Piriven in Kotte, Vidagama Pirivena in Raigama, Tottagamuwe Pirivena in Hikkaduwa. Dr. Goonetilleke points out that the level of scholarship was so high in some of these schools that mathematicians could count upto 10 to the power of 54 when the Greeks knew to count only upto 10,000 while their knowledge of medicine was far higher than Europe.
  • Setting up of Catholic schools to teach Portuguese language (Had the Portuguese rule prevailed and spread throughout Sri Lanka, it would have completely lost is Buddhist heritage and become a Westernized Catholic country.

Seizure of non-Christian texts

  • All sacred religious text books seized and destroyed

Denial to practice religion

  • All Buddhists and Hindus prohibited from visiting their respective temples

Prohibiting non-Christian events

  • Buddhist/Hindu wedding ceremonies, religious processions prohibited

Taking over non-Christian orphans

  • Non-Christian orphans given to Christians foster parents and baptized

Prohibiting lodgings with non-Christians

  • Christians were prohibited from living or lodging with non-Christians

Divide & Rule

  • Dividing the amity between the Sinhala Buddhists and Hindu Tamils (Prof. Endagama) for conversion

Breaking the existing Eastern family system of respect for elders

  • the Asian family obligation structure broken to place God above all else and Catholic converts were told to view God as supreme (Prof. Endagama)


Changing Sinhala Buddhist / Hindu Tamil names

  • changing rituals and ceremonies to adapt to western,


Destroying the traditional economy and social structure of the Sinhalas

  • downgrading agriculture and making the country reliant only on trade (Prof Endagama gives examples of how Sri Lanka sent engineers even to India to construct canals and storage tanks and the ancient Kashmiri chronicle “Rajatarangini’ mentions this)
  • Introducing liquor to get Sinhala & Hindus intoxicated leading to numerous problems that would divide families and country

Nurturing Sinhala/Tamil Christian mercenaries

  • to act against the State which continues unabated.


Applying Roman law “Cujus Regio, Illius Religio”

  • (he who rules the land determines the religion) famous Battle of Danure in 1593 when Kandyan peasants battled with the Portuguese to stop the kidnapping of 12 year old Dona Catherina to be married to the Portuguese which would have given legal authority to fully conquer Sri Lanka.

These will be argued as things of the past to be forgotten but the very Christian countries of the world are seeking ‘accountability’ from Sri Lanka when having weathered 30 years of terror and having eliminated that terror the people would like to move on. If ‘accountability’ is the witch hunt by mostly the EU bloc of nations, should they not admit to some of their sins as well? Is that logic too difficult to accept? There cant be a time bar on crimes especially the type of crimes that took place before the establishment of the UN. The victims of the Europeans that conquered the new world to conquer, commerce and convert committed atrocities of the kind that are today referred to as ‘genocide’ and crimes against humanity’ and ‘war crimes’ but these happened in far worse scale than that which media currently projects using the same terms.

What the Pope, the Church, the Catholics and members of the other Abrahamic religions should realize is that the non-Abrahamic religions lost out on entire indigenous races, religions and territory because of the policies adopted by the Church and its rulers via the Papal Bulls that ordered Catholics/Christians to take over lands and declare them Christian.

(Papal Bulls – the Crimes the Church/Popes ordered the Kings to commit

This imperial domination has not ceased and men, movements and money (links to Western Governments, NGO lobbies, secret intelligence agencies) continue to be allocated to harvest souls. Those that claim that non-Abrahamic religions are exaggerating and pretending to raise unnecessary fears of Catholic-Christian-Islam expansionist movements may like to explain what happened to the once Buddhist Maldives, the once Buddhist Bangladesh, the once majority Buddhist South Korea where a 90% Buddhist population in the 1940s has within 65 years declined to 23% and is one of the Church’s success stories and where Pope Francis will leave for after Sri Lanka to celebrate that victory.

We would also like to have Pope Francis make a statement on certain elements within the Catholic Church collaborating with the LTTE

  • links of some Church fathers in Sri Lanka to LTTE terror and launch an immediate investigation on their conduct to decide whether they deserved to be ex-communicated.
  • Father Emmanuel is named by Sri Lankan Government as head of a banned LTTE front
  • Father Rayappu Joseph allowed LTTE to use Madhu Church and declared open the “Embassy of the Tamil Eelam”, the Eelam House in London.
  • Fathers of the Church writing letters to the UNHRC repeatedly calling for war crimes inquiry against Sri Lanka

Francis Xavier to the Pope, the Church and Catholics in Sri Lanka will be hailed as a Saint but to the rest of the Sri Lankans he would be remembered for the conversion drive started in 1543, the punishment he ordered from Portugal against Sankili of Jaffna and the mass conversions that took place from 1619 onwards. Fernao de Queiros, the Portuguese chronicler had written that the people of Jaffna had been “reduced to the utmost misery” under Portuguese rule. When the Dutch arrived, the converted Hindus returned to Hinduism while some became Christian while the coastal Paravas remained Catholic.

Many others have been made Saints despite dubious past. Giving sainthood is a right of the Pope and the Church, however, being asked to deliver an apology is not too much to ask and it is well within our rights as descendants of those who suffered and apology and reparation is a legal entitlement that Pope Francis should seriously consider before arriving to Sri Lanka.

Given that apologies have been made for other crimes committed by the Church, an apology is nothing compared to the atrocities that were committed in the name of religion on the orders of the Church and followed by the Kings.

An apology from the Pope/Church will serve justice the Sinhalse Buddhists, the Hindu Tamils and the Muslims. That is virtually 98% of Sri Lanka!

It will be nice to see the Pope projected as amicable and understanding look at the request from a victim’s point of view.

– by Shenali D Waduge