Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Ranjith Patabendige to head the archdiocese of Colombo
Vatican City, June 17, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don — one of his most trusted collaborators in the Vatican and a forceful advocate for justice and peace — to head the archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka
A strong leader, he returns as head of the Sri Lankan Church in what many observers see as a particularly difficult moment. A bloody 30-year civil war has just ended with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers rebels.
One of only two Asians in top positions in the Roman Curia — the other being Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples — he succeeds Archbishop Oswald Gomis, who reached the official retirement age of 75 over 18 months ago.
The Vatican made the announcement on June 16, confirming rumors that have circulated in Rome for almost two years.
Archbishop Ranjith was born in Polgahawela, Sri Lanka, on Nov. 15, 1947 and completed his early studies in Colombo and Kandy, before going on to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he obtained a degree in theology.
Pope Paul VI ordained him priest in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, 1975.
He then went for higher studies and gained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a special certificate in Biblical studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
After various pastoral and academic appointments in Colombo archdiocese, and having served in various roles at national level, Pope John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Colombo in 1991 and appointed him bishop of Ratnapura in 1995.
From 1995-2001, he served as secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and chairman of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development. In the latter role, he became heavily involved in the search for a solution to the country’s civil conflict. The government appointed him as its emissary on peace negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.
Pope John Paul II brought him to Rome on Oct. 1, 2001, as adjunct secretary at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and on April 29, 2004, appointed him apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and Timor Leste.
Archbishop Ranjith was among the first of the new appointments to the Roman Curia made by Pope Benedict XVI after his election. On Dec. 10, 2005, the pontiff designated him secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a post he has held until now and which has given him considerable international experience and a wide understanding of the universal Church.
The archbishop speaks English, French, German, Italian, Sinhalese and Tamil fluently, and has a fair knowledge of Indonesian and Spanish. He has also studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Arabic.
Many in Rome believe his new appointment puts him in line for a red hat. Sources expect Pope Benedict to make him a cardinal either in the forthcoming consistory, probably in 2010, or in the next one, about two years later.
- Asian Tribune -
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