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Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday victims on the path to sainthood

Even on the fifth anniversary of the terror attack in the Indian Ocean nation, the perpetrators are still at large
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith uses his cellular phone during a media interview in the Archbishop House in Colombo on April 17.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith uses his cellular phone during a media interview in the Archbishop House in Colombo on April 17. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 18, 2024 11:35 AM GMT
Updated: April 19, 2024 04:46 AM GMT

The Sri Lankan Church is making efforts to launch the sainthood cause for Easter Sunday victims, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said ahead of the explosions' fifth anniversary. 

Ranjith told the media on April 17 that the Church has started collecting signatures to send an application to the Vatican seeking permission to start the diocesan investigation of the victims.

According to Church laws, the diocesan inquiry, the first step in the canonization process, can be started only five years after a person's death. 

The archdiocese has started collecting signatures from Catholics nationwide for the application to be presented before Pope Francis, said the senior-most churchman in the Island nation of 22 million people.

The simultaneous bomb explosions in three Christian Churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday of 2019 killed nearly 270 people, including 45 children, from more than 38 nations and injured more than 500.

“They [the victims] came for the Sunday Mass and the Easter celebrations. They never expected to be killed. This was an unfortunate incident. We are now going to declare those who were killed in the churches as ‘heroes of faith,’” the 77-year-old cardinal said.

Two Catholic churches -- St. Anthony's in Kochchikadai and St. Sebastian's in Katuwapitiya in Negombo -- under the Colombo archdiocese came under attack on April 21, 2019.

An Evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern province and three luxury hotels were also targeted in the suicide attack.

Cardinal Ranjith has been vocal in his criticism of governments over the tardy progress in the probe. Let down by the government, the prelate has repeatedly called for an international investigation.

Some media reports claimed that certain people in the administration allowed the attack to help the opposition party come to power, blaming the government for a lack of security.

Following the attack, the then-opposition party leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa became president in the 2020 national polls.

Critics of Rajapaksa, including church leaders, demand an international investigation. They say the real culprits behind the attack are still at large, and the successive governments showed little interest.

The cardinal observed that when the victims are declared "heroes of faith, the international community will come to recognize them."

“We have lost trust in the system, and therefore, now we are going to appeal to the Lord for justice," the cardinal stressed.

This year’s commemorative event will mark collective prayers and special Masses in both churches.

"We don't intend to turn it into a political event because we don't trust politicians," Ranjith added.

He said on April 20, a march from St. Anthony's church will head toward St. Sebastian's.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Brian Udaigwe and UN representatives are expected to attend the event.

On April 21, The Church will observe a two-minute silence at 8:45 a.m. — the time the deadly bombs hit the church gathering.

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1 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
i think it is RIDICULOUS that cardinal ranjith is calling for these victims to be canonised as SAINTS! EITHER HE IS FOOLING THE CATHOLICS OF SRI LANKA OR HE IS TRYING TO DRAW INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION TO GET JUSTICE.
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