Pope Francis, on a two-day visit to the island nation of Sri Lanka, known for its rich diversity of cultural and religious traditions, called for peace and healing by conquering evil with good.

Speaking during the welcome ceremony in Colombo, in the presence of newly-elected Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, the pope said the bitter legacy of injustices, hostility and mistrust left behind by years of strife cannot be easily wiped away.

He said the example of Christian charity and respect for all, regardless of ethnicity or religion, set by Blessed Joseph Vaz, continues to inspire and teach everybody today. “Diversity is no longer seen as a threat, but as a source of enrichment. The path to justice, reconciliation and social harmony becomes all the more clearly seen,” the pope said.

Vaz’s 23 years of intensive apostolic activity and his work among the poorest of the poor earned him great respect among all religious sections, the pope said. He called for respect for human rights and truth for healing wounds and forging unity, as the island nation is in rebuilding mode after decades of war.

Large crowds from all religious sections lined up the route the pope took as he entered Colombo and for several hours even near the entrance of the Archbishop’s residence, patiently braving the heat for a glimpse of the leader of the Catholic Church.

A few thousands of Indians including from Goa have also arrived in Colombo to share in the joy of the canonization of Vaz, a Goan priest, at the hands of the pope, and scheduled for Wednesday morning.