St. Sebastian’s church which was damaged in the Easter Sunday bomb blast celebrates its first feast after the attack on Jan. 20. The church was consecrated and reopened to the public on July 21. (ucanews)
St. Sebastian’s Church, which suffered most damages in the Easter Sunday bomb blast last April, has celebrated its first feast after the attack in a subdued way.
There were no roadside tents, decorations and colorful lights for the ten-day feast this year, which culminated on Jan.20.
It was the first annual feast of the parish after Islamic terrorists targeted it along with two other churches near the capital Colombo.
Nine suicide bombers launched simultaneous attacks on six targets nationwide on Easter Sunday, killing over 260 people, nearly all Christians.
The 151-year-old parish lost 93 of its members, including 27 children, who were attending the morning Easter Sunday Mass.
The Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo, a Catholic centre, was repaired and re-opened on July 21, three months after the attacks.
Anton Ranil, 52, a parishioner, said last year they had a grand celebration of 150th feast day.
“We celebrated it with colorful decorations, but this time it is a very simple feast with only prayers and religious ceremonies,” said Ranil.
Typically friends and relatives gather in families to celebrate the feast. They also illuminate their homes and public places.
However, “no visitors this year and bulbs were lit only on the church flag tree, not in the whole village,” said Ranil.
“Most of the victims’ families attended all novenas,” or the nine-day prayers during the feast days. “It is a symbol of hope and faith in God,” he said. “May all recover through the intercession of St. Sebastian,” he said.
The government has initiated several investigations into the Easter Sunday blasts, including one by a presidential committee and another by a parliamentary select committee.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also appointed an independent commission to find the real culprits and all those responsible for the Easter massacre.
Newly-appointed President Rajapaksa met Cardinal Ranjith and said a formal inquiry into the Easter bombing would be conducted and justice would be given to the victims immediately.
“Banners featuring images of people killed in a barbaric bombing can still be seen on walls of Katuwapitiya village even during the feast,” said Nadee Senaviratne from Negombo.
Father Lawrence Ramanayaka, director of Church’s social service agency Caritas, said the Church had distributed 71 million (some US$94,000) to 352 families three months since the attack.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith urged the faithful to visit families of the victims during Christmas and refrain from organizing noisy parties and waste during the festive season.
Cardinal Ranjith also celebrated Christmas midnight Mass at St. Sebastian’s Church and said he held no hatred against those who committed this heinous crime.
“The bombers could not destroy us completely, but their action moved us to go for a very deep spiritual awakening. We were enabled to understand better the true meaning of our faith,” said Cardinal Ranjith delivering his homily on Dec.25.