Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has called for an international probe into the cause of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking in a televised Mass on March 15, the archbishop of Colombo said powerful countries cannot be allowed to play with the lives of the innocent public. He said that experimenting with nature had resulted in the coronavirus. "We know that in several areas of the world researchers of all types for various reasons are engaging in research to destroy human life and nature. Some of these viruses are the products of aimless experiments,” said Cardinal Ranjith. "This kind of research is done not by people in poor countries but in laboratories in rich countries. Producing such things is a very serious crime for mankind. "I ask the Lord to reveal who made these poisonous seeds. The United Nations or international organizations must find out who is behind these incidents and punish them. Such research should be banned."
The cardinal's comments came as the Sri Lankan Church canceled Masses and other services in all parishes because of a rapid rise of coronavirus cases in the country. It announced on March 15 that it is canceling all church services until the end of the month. The decision came in the middle of the Lenten season that features common gatherings such as the Way of the Cross, Lenten pilgrimages, group meditation, healing services and group prayer services. In a press briefing, Cardinal Ranjith requested all political parties to join together to fight Covid-19 while asking people not to gather extra goods unnecessarily. The number of infections in Sri Lanka has risen to 18. Most of the patients had arrived from Italy recently. The government declared March 16 a public holiday following the rapid rise of virus cases. The ministry of education has decided to close all government schools until April 20, while Catholic-run schools have also been closed. Sri Lanka has banned all travelers originating from eight European countries including the UK, Norway and Belgium. A two-week quarantine period has been introduced for those arriving from Europe. The government has stressed the importance of using electronic, print and social media to educate people about the coronavirus. Bishop Valence Mendis of Chilaw said that March 21 is a special day of prayer for Catholics. "I call on all of you to come together to pray for all of us in this country and for all those suffering from this disease in other countries," he said. Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe of Galle, chairman of the Commission for Migrants, appealed for prayers for migrant workers and students who are caught up in the pandemic in many parts of the world. "I think of our many brothers and sisters throughout the world who have no access to medical care because they live in poverty," said Bishop Wickramasinghe. "It is my hope that efforts will be made to cooperate in ensuring that everyone has access to suitable treatment for preserving and restoring their health." Sri Lankan expatriate Mervin Nilantha, who lives in Milan in virus-ravaged Italy, said by telephone that he and his family are unable to leave their small room and are praying to God because they cannot come to Sri Lanka. "We are always talking to Sri Lankan friends in Italy and talking to my father, mother and relatives." said Nilantha. "We are constantly praying to save our lives."
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