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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Pope Francis urged Sri Lankans to discover the truth behind their bloody 26-year civil war, saying it was necessary for the country to heal as he arrived in Colombo on an official visit.

“All members of society must work together, all must have a voice,” he said in a speech shortly after landing on Tuesday.

He was greeted by President Maithripala Sirisena, troupes of dancers and a long line of costumed elephants.

The pontiff will spend two days in Sri Lanka before heading to the Philippines as part of a trip aimed at shoring-up the Church's presence in developing nations.

He carried a message of inter-faith dialogue, chiming with the new Sri Lanka government's push for religious harmony.

Fighting between the mainly Hindu Tamils and the and mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority ended in 2009 with a crushing defeat for the Tamils. A 2011 U.N. estimate put the death toll from the final army assault at up to 40,000 civilians.

“Sri Lanka for many years knew the horrors of civil strife, and is now seeking to consolidate peace and to heal the scars of those years,” Pope Francis said. “It is no easy task to overcome the bitter legacy of injustices, hostility and mistrust left by the conflict. It can only be done by overcoming evil with good and by cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace. The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity.”



- Claudio Lavanga and Alastair Jamieson

Reuters contributed to this report. Alastair Jamieson reported from London.