Catholic church commemorates Easter Sunday terror attacks | Sunday Observer
Two years on, lest we forget:

Catholic church commemorates Easter Sunday terror attacks

25 April, 2021
Catholic priests and nuns carry photos as they remember the victims killed in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings. The walk to remember the terror victims began at Maris Stella College, Negombo at 3.00pm on Wednesday (21) and ended at the Katuwapitiya Church.    Pix by Sulochana Gamage and Saman Sri wedage
Catholic priests and nuns carry photos as they remember the victims killed in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings. The walk to remember the terror victims began at Maris Stella College, Negombo at 3.00pm on Wednesday (21) and ended at the Katuwapitiya Church. Pix by Sulochana Gamage and Saman Sri wedage

The Catholic church on Wednesday commemorated the second anniversary of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks with a series of events including memorial services at the three churches targeted by the suicide bombers.

Relatives and family members of the victims of the coordinated suicide attacks in 2019 gathered at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade Colombo, St. Sebastian’s church in Katuwapitiya as well as the Evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa to remember the loved ones who perished and bless those who were maimed and continue to suffer from their injuries to date.

Buddhist bikkhus and leaders of other faiths took part in the memorial service at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade led by the Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. At 8.45am a two-minute silence was observed nationwide to remember the terror victims.

In the evening, the Archbishop joined a special walk and a memorial service at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya where he blessed the injured, some who were still in wheel- chairs and stretches unable to walk or sit up. Earlier he visited the two grave yards where over 100 innocent victims who happened to attend Holy Mass at Katuwapitiya church on the fateful day are buried.

Among the dead on that Easter Sunday were seven members of the same family leaving only a middle aged mother to outlive the blasts. In another case three young children and the mother had perished leaving the father to embrace a lonely and a sorrowful future. “I think all five of us died that day, they buried all others but me,” the father who is still waiting for answers as to why it happened says.

Many others lost their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and daughters and sons while some were badly injured.

So far the police had arrested nearly 700 suspects, in connection with the attacks on the churches and elsewhere which claimed 269 lives and injured over 590 - including foreign tourists. Over 50 Sri Lankans living overseas have been repatriated and detained in connection with the case.

The Government proscribed many Islamic organisations in the immediate aftermath and a week ago 11 more organisations including the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda were banned under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Of the 676 persons arrested in connection with the terror attacks, 202 are currently in remand custody, 66 have been detained for questioning and 408 were released on bail, yet investigations are continuing, State Minister Sarath Weerasekera told Parliament a few weeks ago.

He said 26 investigations have been completed so far and the Attorney General is expected to initiate court proceedings into these cases shortly.

However, delivering a speech at the Second Year Remembrance of Easter Attack held at St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith expressed dissatisfaction at the pace the investigations were continuing and said, “Even though we wish to forgive, we like to know who did this carnage, for what purpose and at whose bidding.”

He said, “We should know whether they repent their actions and whether they are worthy of receiving our pardon for whatever they have done. The faith that Jesus Christ gave us also requires us to know the truth because Jesus said that ‘he is the truth’. He noted this attack caused the death of people of all religions, races, languages and groups including foreigners.

“It is a fact that Zaharan Hashim blasted himself, not in a place where only Catholics were present, but in a hotel where people of different faiths were present. We have to examine why, instead of a church, he chose to detonate himself in a hotel killing not only Catholics and Christians but so many others including Muslims and Malays.

“He said, therefore, it becomes clear that all these attacks are not necessarily what they appear to be.”I wish to make a special appeal to our Muslims brothers. Understand the global politics in such organized crimes that they are not in your interest. Rise up to defend yourselves from those who manipulate even Islam for their own purposes.”

He urged the Government to implement the recommendations in the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday terror attacks and to wipe out religous extremism and prevent a recurrence of a similar incident.

The Archbishop said he will not abandon the ‘perished and the suffering’ of the Easter carnage adding, ‘We will continue our struggle until a comprehensive investigation is conducted and those responsible are brought to book’

Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha thera also delivered a speech at the event while veteran songstress Nanda Malini sang a song specially scripted for those killed and affected in the attacks.


Archbishop Brian Udaigwe, Apostolic Nuncio extended the blessing of Pope Francis to the Easter Sunday victims

“On this second commemoration of the Easter Sunday tragedy, I bring you words of consolation from the Holy Father Pope Francis. He gives his Apostolic Blessings to you and your families, and particularly to the families of the victims of the attack.

You have had many services in Colombo, Negombo and some other parts of the country over the last two years to bring to mind the hundreds of people who lost their lives and those who got maimed by the dastardly attacks, both in churches and hotels. These included, in great numbers, Sri Lankans, but also some foreigners. I greet the representatives of those foreign countries here with us today….

Being in the Easter season, we are still reflecting on the events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, as narrated in the Gospel. We are called to be a people of hope, hope brought to us by Jesus’ resurrection.

As it is said, the blood of martyrs is the seed of growth of the Church. This gives us hope. The Lord always strengthens us. Jesus prayed from the cross, imploring the Father to forgive those who persecuted and killed him. While the Church prays and encourages justice to take its rightful course, it also forgives the culprits and implores for the repentance of those still harbouring similar malice. Pope Francis recalls in his recent Encyclical Letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship, Fratelli Tutti, “Those who truly forgive … choose not to yield to the same destructive force that caused them so much suffering. They break the vicious circle; they halt the advance of the forces of destruction. They choose not to spread in society the spirit of revenge that will sooner or later return to take its toll.

Revenge never truly satisfies victims. Revenge resolves nothing.” (Fratelli Tutti, October 3, 2020, No. 251).

This is why we acclaim the efforts of those who laboured diligently to avoid vendetta after the attacks. It is indeed good to note that this commemoration is dedicated to prayer, several days of prayer, in different forms, for the victims of that attack and for the large number of families that were directly affected, and also for the perpetrators.

In the name of the Holy Father Pope Francis, I salute and thank the Bishops of Sri Lanka, particularly His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and his assistants, for these initiatives; appreciating also the unwavering efforts of the authorities, through the services of security agents, to control and ensure that there is no repeat of such incidents. Once again, I extend prayerful sympathies to the families and relatives of the victims. May the God of all consolation be your strength and guide!”