Pope Francis on Sunday implored the authorities of Sri Lanka to listen to the cries of their people, suffering under the country’s worst economic crisis in 70 years.
“I join in the grief of the people of Sri Lanka, who continue to suffer the effects of political and economic instability,” the pope said after praying the Angelus July 10.
“Together with the country’s bishops,” he said, “I renew my call for peace and implore those in authority not to ignore the cry of the poor and the needs of the people.”
Pope Francis gave his appeal from a window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced on Sunday he will step down this week after months of protests in his country over the mismanagement of economic affairs.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has also agreed to resign.
Sri Lanka has run out of foreign currency as it experiences its worst economic crisis in 70 years. The country’s 22 million people are suffering under unchecked inflation and the government’s inability to import fuel, food, and medicine.
President Rajapaksa’s house was stormed, and the residence of the prime minister was set on fire during intensified protests on July 9, the culmination of months of demonstrations.
Anti-government protestors have said they will continue to occupy the homes until the two leaders leave office.
Members of the Opposition parties are set to meet July 10 to discuss forming a new government.
The president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Sri Lanka, in a statement signed by 15 bishops, called for leaders to work faster to find solutions.
“People are stranded without the basic needs such as food, fuel and gas,” Bishop Harold Anthony Perera said.
“The political and economic crisis has made people suffer unjustly,” he said. “Those responsible for this horrendous crisis are yet to be exposed.”
“We do not see an organized mechanism and plan by the government to monitor the situation on a daily basis and come up with speedy solutions. The failure of the system has compelled the entire population to clamor for radical change,” he continued.
“We earnestly urge the government to take drastic steps to address these issues and bring about justice, equity and open the way for our children and youth to have a country to live with dignity.”
Pope Francis also addressed on Sunday the people of Libya, who are also suffering under serious social and economic problems.
“I urge everyone to once again seek convincing solutions, with the help of the international community, through constructive dialogue and national reconciliation,” he said.
Renewing his closeness to the people of Ukraine, the pope said he prays “for all the families, especially for the victims, the wounded, the sick; I pray for the elderly and the children. May God show the way to end this foolish war.”