Pope Francis started his six-day tour of Asia in Sri Lanka Tuesday with visits to the poor, a welcome from elephants and a ride in a Jeep under the hot sun. The pope, the first to visit Sri Lanka in 20 years, urged his followers to look for the “pursuit of truth," the BBC reported. In a country plagued by a civil war, Francis said peace can be found by “cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace.”
Between the sun and long flight from Rome, the 78-year-old pope opted to cancel a meeting he had scheduled with several Sri Lankan bishops. He did keep a meeting with Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected president last week. “My government is promoting peace and friendship among our people after overcoming a cruel terrorist conflict,” Sirisena said, according to Reuters.
During his visit, Francis will canonize Joseph Vaz, an Indian-born 17th- century priest who revived Catholicism in Sri Lanka, the Wall Street Journal reported. He will then travel to the Philippines on Thursday. Posters, shirts, cookies and a musical have already been created in honor of Francis' Philippines visit, according to ABC News.
Pope Francis waves at devotees who gather on the road to see him after he arrived at the Colombo airport January 13, 2015. Pope Francis said on Tuesday Sri Lanka needed to find out the truth of what happened during its long civil war in order to consolidate peace and heal scars between religious communities.Photo: REUTERS/Dinuka LiyanawatteA girl holds a sign to welcome Pope Francis as she waits on the road for the pope's arrival at Colombo airport January 13, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Dinuka LiyanawattePope Francis speaks with journalists during the flight from Rome to Colombo, Sri Lanka January 12, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Stefano RellandiniPope Francis is greeted as he arrives at the Colombo airport January 13, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Osservatore RomanoPope Francis' cap is blown off as he stands next to Sri Lanka's newly elected president Mithripala Sirisena at the Colombo airport January 13, 2015.Photo: REUTERS/Stefano RellandiniPope Francis is greeted as he arrives at the Colombo airport January 13, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Osservatore RomanoPope Francis (L) wears a saffron-coloured robe as he attends with Hindu Ndu-Kurukkal SivaSri T. Mahadeva (R) during the Interreligious Encounter at the Bmich in Colombo January 13, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Stefano RellandiniPope Francis is greeted as he arrives at the Colombo airport January 13, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Osservatore Romano