Sri Lanka church says candidates pledge violence-free presidential vote ahead of pope's visit

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A Sri Lankan church leader says the two main candidates in January's presidential election have promised a violence-free vote, with Pope Francis scheduled to visit the country just days later.

Francis is to start a three-day visit on Jan. 13, five days after the poll. Some church officials are seeking a postponement, fearing there could be post-election violence because of the acrimonious campaign.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is seeking a third term in office, is facing his former health minister, Maithripala Sirisena. Sirisena defected from Rajapaksa's government after the election was announced last month.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told the Catholic weekly newspaper Messenger that the bishops' conference met with both candidates and received their assurances of no violence.