Pope Francis declared Blessed Joseph Vaz a saint at an Eucharistic celebration at Galle face green park on Wednesday, ending a long wait for the canonization of the 17th century Goan priest.
Church bells rang and lakh of people clapped as Pope Francis said, "We declare and define Blessed Joseph Vaz to be Saint and we enroll him among the Saints, decreeing that he is to be venerated as such by the whole Church."
Pope arrived at the venue on the sea front at 8am and went round the packed ground waving to the crowd. Later, around 9am, he conferred sainthood on the deeply respected priest, as Sri Lankans grateful for their faith, Goans and others who had travelled to the venue and camping since late evening on Tuesday, braving the cold reacted with joy.
Ordained a priest in 1676 in Goa, he arrived in the island nation in 1687 and is known to have founded several churches and chapels, helping revive the faith amidst persecution of Catholics by Calvinists. Pope Francis lauded the perservance and hard work of Vaz, stating that he lived as a true icon of the Lord's Word.
The Goan priest died in 1711 and was beatified by Pope John Paull II in Colombo on January 21, 1995.