Sri Lankan cardinal: Catholics have forgiven 2019 Easter church attackers

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan Catholics have forgiven the 2019 Easter suicide attackers who brought terror to the island nation a year ago, said the cardinal of Colombo.

A person mourns near the grave of a suicide bombing victim at Sellakanda Catholic cemetery in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 23, 2019. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said during Easter Mass April 12, 2020, that Sri Lankan Catholics have forgiven the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attackers who brought terror to the island nation. (CNS photo/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters)

“Not only did Catholics die, but the bombs killed Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith as he celebrated Easter Mass April 12.

“It is human nature to hurt people through anger, but we have given up that human nature and chosen the life of the resurrection of the Lord. Resurrection is the complete rejection of selfishness,” the cardinal said. His remarks were reported by ucanews.com.

“We have taught them that lesson, not hating anyone in any way. This is what civilization means and that is the Resurrection.”

Nine suicide bombers affiliated with a local Islamist extremist group blasted three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing at least 279 people, including 37 foreign nationals, and injuring about 500. They carried out coordinated bomb attacks at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, St. Anthony Shrine in Colombo and the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaloa.

St. Sebastian Church and St. Anthony Shrine were consecrated and reopened to the public, but Zion Church is still being renovated by the military.

After the bombings, the general public and religious leaders blamed politicians and government officials for failing to prevent the attacks.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka and Cardinal Ranjith appealed to the government to appoint an independent commission to conduct an impartial inquiry and to bring the perpetrators to trial.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a presidential commission to investigate the bombings. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also appointed a committee to undertake a formal inquiry and promised to give justice to victims.

Police have arrested 135 people in connection with the attacks.