An opposition lawmaker has appealed to the pope this week to put pressure on the government to diffuse a row in which alleged threats have been made against Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar.
In a letter sent to the pope on Wednesday, Jayalath Jayawardena said the bishop is coming under increasing attack by several government ministers and the media.
“Use your good offices to dialogue with the Sri Lankan government to ensure his [Bishop Joseph’s] safety so he can continue his mission without threats, intimidation and false allegations,” the United National Party lawmaker’s letter said.
The bishop is under fire after calling for an independent international body to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by the government in a letter sent to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this year.
The bishop aspires to be the Cardinal of “Tamil Eelam,” is involved in a conspiracy against the government supported by INGOs, and disturbing Muslim-Tamil harmony are just some of the accusations being leveled against the prelate.
“Government ministers have called for his arrest and prosecution over the letter and a statement he made to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission,” said Jayawardana.
“The bishop was questioned by intelligence officers last month. At no time has the bishop ever called for a separate country or a renewed armed struggle,” Jayawardena said.
“He had also condemned attacks on journalists and human rights defenders.”
Pope Benedict and President Rajapaksa met at the Vatican last week. It is not known whether the situation regarding Bishop Joseph was discussed.
Meanwhile, Father Jayabalan Croos, a priest from the bishop’s diocese has expressed appreciation for the large show of support for the prelate.
Mashal Rajanayagam who attended a recent prayer service for Bishop Joseph condemned all those attacking him.
“The bishop for many years has been a voice for the voiceless and for victims of war. He is also one of the most prominent spokespersons on matters of social justice, human rights, peace and reconciliation,” he said.