Source: The Washington Times
On August 14, 2004 The Washington Times reported, "Sri Lanka is a seat of conservative Buddhism, but a church here visited out of the blue by the pope is standing out as a symbol of religious harmony amid a heated debate on conversions. Devotees of different creeds flock to St. Anthony's Church even as the predominantly Buddhist nation grapples with proposals to outlaw 'unethical conversions.' 'People from all religions -- Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims -- come here seeking favors,' said church official Dudley Fernando. 'It seems whatever they ask for is granted. Otherwise you can't explain this following'... Buddhist and Hindu traditions have crept into the church, legendary for resisting persecution during the Dutch colonial rule, which followed the Portuguese who introduced Catholicism to this island in the 16th century. In one example, non-Christian believers wrap coins in cloth ribbons and tie them to the statues, as done by Hindus and Buddhists. 'We are Buddhists, but my wife has faith in the miraculous powers of St. Anthony,' said Colombo businessman D.C. Wijesekara. The Catholic Church is also attracting a full house for every Mass, and its special Tuesday services are a huge draw."