2015-01-09 Vatican - If there is any place where the role of a bridge is most apt, it is in Sri Lanka, and it is the Church in the ‎country. ‎Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, made the observation in an interview to ‎Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio and Vatican television CTV, ahead of the ‎visit of Pope Francis to Sri Lanka and the Philippines next week. After visiting the island nation, Jan. ‎‎13-15, the Holy Father will fly to the Philippines from where he will return to the Vatican, Jan. 19. The Sinhalese who are mostly Budddhist, make up over 74% of Sri Lanka’s ‎over 21 million population; whereas the Tamils, who are largely Hindu, form some 13%. Catholics are a little over 1.5 million. Sri Lanka was wracked by a 26-year ‎civil war between Tamil rebels and the predominantly Sinhalese government which ended in May 2009 ‎with the defeat of the Tamils. Cardinal Parolin explained that the Catholic Church with members on both sides of the ‎nation’s ethnic divide has the duty of bringing about national dialogue, reconciliation and collaboration. He ‎observed that the island nation has a tradition of inter-religious harmony, but regretted that some ‎extremist groups manipulate public opinion and create tension. He hoped that the nation’s authorities ‎will be able to maintain the tradition of religious coexistence. He hoped the visit of Pope Francis will ‎help the nation to look forward rather than reopen old wounds.