Pope Francis became the second pope to visit a Buddhist temple on Wednesday, changing his schedule at the last minute to pay his respects at the Mahabodhi temple in Maradana, local media reported.
Francis listened respectfully as Buddhist monks chanted and prayed while opening the stupa, or casket, containing relics the Vatican said.
Usually, the relics are only put on display once a year, and Buddhists from around Sri Lanka line up for days to pay homage to them since it is such a rare privilege.
Upatissa had invited Francis to visit the temple when he greeted him at Colombo's airport on Tuesday, the Vatican said.
St. John Paul II visited a Buddhist temple during a 1984 visit to Thailand.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, at a briefing yesterday said Francis didn't pray or meditate during the visit, though he did take off his shoes as all visitors to the temple must do.
He noted that unlike Francis' recent visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul — where the pope did pause for a moment in prayer with the chief imam — this visit was a much shorter affair, arranged at the last minute.
"There was not a time of silence in this sense," Lombardi told reporters. "I can only say the pope was listening with great respect, and listening also to the prayer of the monk showing the relics and this was all."[caption id="attachment_67935" align="alignnone" width="500"] This handout picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis (2nd R) walking with Sri Lankan Buddhist monks during a visit to a temple in Colombo on January 14, 2015. AFP[/caption] [caption id="attachment_67934" align="alignnone" width="500"] This handout picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis (L) interacting with Sri Lankan monks and members of the Buddhist community during a visit to a temple in Colombo. AFP[/caption]
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