Monday, April 22, 2019

We must investigate in a careful way. On the surface it may seem like a particular group but it may be that there are other nuances behind these attacks.” —Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, where a series of terrorist bombings on Easter Sunday took the lives of some 290 people, many attending Easter Sunday Mass

(Note: Following the terrible events on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, the interview below with the archbishop of the country’s capital, Colombo, was published today in Italian on the Vatican News website, by journalist Eugenio Murrali. The English translation is my own.—RM)

Cardinal Ranjith on the Bloody Terrorist Attacks in His City on Easter Sunday (link)

Pope Francis and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka, with clerics from Sri Lanka during the Pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 10, 2018. Francis expressed his closeness to the Sri Lankan Christian community after a series of bombings at churches Easter morning April 21 killed at least 200 and injured hundreds more. (Paul Haring/CNS)



Sri Lanka, Cardinal Ranjith: “Let us follow the example of Christ on the cross”

Cardinal Ranjith, interviewed by Vatican News — an official Vatican news agency — calls for justice, but also for calm, so that the atmosphere of coexistence on the island not be poisoned. Today he will visit the wounded in hospitals and bring his comfort

By Eugenio Murrali — Vatican City

A new explosion occurred today in front of the church of St. Anthony, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

A bomb inside a van parked near the church exploded while a bomb squad tried to defuse it.

Panic broke out in front of the church. A La Repubblica reporter was very lightly injured by a splinter.

In addition, police found 87 detonators near the capital’s main bus station.

Meanwhile, the news of yesterday’s attacks is being updated.

The more than 290 dead and 500 wounded of the Easter massacres in Sri Lanka were carried out by seven suicide bombers.

A government spokesman said there was a local Islamist movement, the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) behind the attacks.

The government undersecretary, Rajitha Senaratne, also told The Guardian that there is an international network without whose support these attacks would not have succeeded.

The authorities have arrested 24 suspects and there is a new curfew order, from 20 local to 4 tomorrow morning.

The government has declared a state of national emergency.


Yesterday’s explosions, the most violent since the end of the civil war in 2009, have hit churches and hotels in several parts of the island.

A senior national police official issued an alert 10 days ago — reports Agence France Presse — based on information from foreign intelligence that an Islamist movement was planning “vicious attacks against important churches.”

We reached the cardinal by telephone. Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don is the archbishop of Colombo and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Ranjith, could you tell us what happened yesterday morning, on Easter Sunday?

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith: Immediately after hearing news of the attack, I went to visit the church in Colombo where about 50 people died.

It happened during Mass on Easter Sunday: there was a fairly large crowd in the church and a suicide bomber entered the church and blew himself up, causing deaths, injuries and serious damage.

Then, immediately afterward, we heard that a bomb had exploded in another church in a small town north of Colombo, resulting in more than 120 deaths and destroying the church itself.

We don’t know who did it or how it happened.

Now the government and the police are investigating and we hope that the real perpetrators will soon be found.

You also made an appeal for blood donors, because there are so many wounded who lost a great deal of blood…

Cardinal Ranjith: Yes, there are about 500 wounded. Yesterday was Easter Sunday and the churches were all full.

At this moment what is needed most? You also mentioned doctors, inviting them to return to work…

Cardinal Ranjith: Yes, because, as it was a Sunday, there were no doctors in the hospital wards, so I appealed to the doctors to show up to help the patients so that no life would be lost. Then the doctors returned and many volunteers also showed up.

What is the feeling of the Christian community at this time? Is there fear?

Cardinal Ranjith: Yes, there is a lot of fear and also some insecurity because there is no definite information: they say that there are cells of these small groups that want to kill.

We appealed to the government and security agencies to investigate well to find those responsible and to ensure that this situation does not happen again.

You asked for a “full and impartial” investigation…

Cardinal Ranjith: Yes, because here we must investigate in a careful way. On the surface it may seem like a particular group but it may be that there are other nuances behind these attacks.

What answer will the local Church give?

Cardinal Ranjith: We have appealed for calm to all the communities and not to take the law into their own hands, guaranteeing that the funerals take place calmly. I appealed to all Catholics to follow the example of Jesus Christ, who on the Cross forgave those who had crucified him.

It is a long trail of blood, however, which has been shed in this country over many years. Were you expecting such an attack?

Cardinal Ranjith: No, we were surprised, because there hadn’t been an incident here for 10 years.

The situation was generally quite peaceful and the tourists were returning to the country.

The economy was starting up again and we had many hopes.

This attack is a bit strange: there was some tension between the Islamic community and that of the majority, but I didn’t believe that the situation was so dramatic, so much so as to have this type of attack.

We see that behind all this there is some international nuance.

We cannot say which group is behind this attack, because we cannot point the finger at a particular community: we must be intelligent.

How do you see the future right now?

Cardinal Ranjith: If the government exercises its authority and investigates the case well, it can find these cells — these are small groups — and if it finds them and neutralizes them, then the situation will return to normal. There is considerable peace and concord between the Islamic community and other communities: we can develop this further.

Have you been able to talk to some of the faithful who lost loved ones and suffered injuries?

Cardinal Ranjith: Yes, I talked to some people. This evening I am going to visit the hospitals. Unfortunately some families have lost everyone: father, mother, children… all dead in the same attack. These things are really very, very sad. It is not easy to know what we can say to these people because they had gone to pray, they had gone to the Lord.

What can the international community do?

Cardinal Ranjith: I believe that the best help the international community can give us is to understand the situation, assist the local government and local religious leaders to find a solution without putting their finger too far into the country’s internal policies.

(Last update on Monday 22nd April at 2:00 pm, Rome time)


Asian Bishops’ President writes to Sri Lankan Cardinal (link)

April 22, 2019, Matters India

By a Matters India reporter

Yangon, April 22, 2019 — The President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference Charles Cardinal Maung Bo sent a letter of solidarity and condolence to Albert Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019 in the wake of the serial bomb blasts that rocked the island nation.

In a quick response to the unfolding tragedy which occurred during the Easter Sunday morning services Salesian Cardinal Bo wrote, “Allow me to express my sincere anguish at this tragedy that has taken the toll on scores of innocent human lives on the very day when we celebrate world over the victory of life and goodness over death and evil.”

The multiple bomb blasts in 3 churches and 3 hotels claimed some 215 lives including 35 foreigners and injured over 450 others.

The Myanmar Cardinal offered his fraternal support saying, “As I place my humble prayers for all the victims of this senseless violence, I also pray for the care givers and relief agents.”

“We need to plead the mercy seat of the Risen Lord Jesus, the Prince of Hope and Peace, to strengthen all people of good will to help stabilize the situation of fear and suspicion that has arisen following the blasts,” the cardinal prayed.

The head of 19 Episcopal Conferences of Asia concluded his letter stating, “I also extend the prayers of Brother Bishops and Faithful of all member countries of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conference.”

In the years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, there has been some sporadic violence, with members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties. That led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census. It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.

Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.

An invitation to walk down the Appian Way outside of Rome, where Peter met Christ and said to him, “Quo vadis, Domine?”…

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