Sri Lankan cardinal upset to be dragged into politics

Cardinal Ranjith protests about the use of his name and photographs by election campaigners
Sri Lankan cardinal upset to be dragged into politics

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith arrives for a service attended by Easter Sunday attack survivors on the reopening of St. Anthony's Church in Colombo on June 12. (Photo by Ishara Kodikara/AFP)

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has urged political parties not to misuse his name and photographs during Sri Lanka’s presidential election campaign.

Several posts on social media and local websites have suggested that the 71-year-old archbishop of Colombo is supporting various candidates.

"In this election context, my name is being quoted for the benefit of political parties and the postings are very unfair," Cardinal Ranjith told media in Colombo on Oct. 3.

"The only Facebook page and website I have are for the Archdiocese of Colombo. I am not responsible for anything that's posted on any other Facebook page. I am not loyal to any political party or government. I am an independent person.”

The presidential election will be held on Nov. 16. The main opposition party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, has named former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's younger brother and former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as its presidential candidate.

Election Commission officials have said there could be more than 18 candidates.

Sri Lanka’s economy is struggling to recover from a political crisis and the aftermath of the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in April.

Cardinal Ranjith has urged political parties to work together to find the culprits behind the blasts, which killed 259 people and injured hundreds.

Catholic leaders said that if intelligence information had been disseminated before the attacks, officials could have canceled the ill-fated Easter Sunday services on April 21. It was said that fundamental freedoms had been violated by the failure to act on essential information.

Cardinal Ranjith said he no longer has faith that justice will be done to the Easter Sunday victims in spite of repeated requests to reveal the truth behind the attacks.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed a fresh five-member commission to investigate the suicide bombings and take necessary action.

The new probe came after continuous demands from Catholic bishops and Cardinal Ranjith. In August, the cardinal said he would not meet any presidential candidate if justice was not delivered.

Rajeevan Sebastian, a Catholic teacher from Negombo, said the opposition is trying to score political points by using the Easter attacks.

"The archbishop strongly said that religious leaders should talk about the issues faced by the society and the people, and that is exactly what he is doing right now," he said.

Sebastian urged people not to paste any political stripes on Cardinal Ranjith as he doesn't belong to any political party.

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Some Sri Lankan political candidates used Pope Francis’ image in their election campaigns in 2014.

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