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Sri Lankan terror victims thank pope for financial help

A €100,000 grant has reached Easter attack victims’ families at St Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade
Ambulances are seen outside a church with gathered people and security personnel following a blast at the St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo on April 21, 2019

Ambulances are seen outside a church with gathered people and security personnel following a blast at the St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo on April 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 16, 2022 04:54 AM GMT
Updated: August 16, 2022 12:11 PM GMT

Families of victims and survivors of the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka have thanked Pope Francis for extending a financial grant and speaking up for justice and reconciliation.

The pope’s grant of €100,000 (about 36 million rupees) was disbursed among the beneficiaries at the St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade on Aug. 14 in the presence of Archbishop Brian Udaigwe, apostolic nuncio, and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo.

The shrine was among the churches and hotels that were bombed by terrorists on April 21, 2019, killing 267 people and injuring 500 others on Easter Sunday.

Father Jude Chrisantha, the archdiocesan national director of mass communication said that the donation from Pope Francis was distributed among families of the victims at the shrine in Kochchikade and St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya.

Around 380 families in Katuwapitiya and Kochchikade have been affected and Caritas Sethsarana, the social service arm of the Sri Lankan bishops, has been involved in supporting them in coordination with the local churches.

“Families who lost a member are given 100,000 rupees [US$279] while those critically injured are provided Rs. 75,000,” said Father Lawrence Ramanayake, director of Caritas Sethsarana.

“The situation of most victims’ families has taken a turn for the worse"

Affected families are also provided with 25,000 rupees to help with medical, travel, educational, livelihood, and legal assistance.

The local church also runs a scholarship program for 228 children.

M.N. Fernando who lost her child in the suicide blasts and was among the recipients of 100,000 rupees, said the pope and the local church were “our only hope now as the government had failed us."

Fernando, who was among the 60-member delegation that met Pope Francis in April 2022, said the Church was helping with the education of the children and running the households.

“The situation of most victims’ families has taken a turn for the worse due to the current economic crisis in the country,” she said.

Another victim, who did not want to be named, said they only received paltry amounts of assistance from the government.

“Many officials held responsible for their failure to prevent the attacks are in high positions today"

He said that the previous government (of Gotabaya Rajapaksha) had come to power by feigning sympathy for the victims but did little to help them.

“Many officials, held responsible for their failure to prevent the attacks, are in high positions today,” he said while lamenting that no justice was done to the victims.

He thanked Pope Francis for his help and also for lending his voice to all those who still suffer due to the Easter Sunday attacks.

Speaking at the event, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said that the Church will continue the struggle to seek justice for the victims and urged the president to probe the allegations of a political conspiracy behind the attacks.

“I request the President [Ranil Wickremesinghe] to please be honest and not hesitate to explain what your self-appointed committee has said in its findings,” he said.

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