Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - After the pastoral visit to Thailand for the 350th anniversary of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, which marked the beginning of the local Catholic Church, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is visiting Sri Lanka from today, May 22, for three days. Exactly a month ago, on April 21st, the solemnity of Holy Easter, Sri Lanka was upset by a series of terrorist attacks: eight explosions caused at least 253 victims. The first explosion devastated the sanctuary of St. Antony, then the church of St. Sebastian in Negombo while the third church to be devastated was the evangelical church of Sion in Batticaloa. Even three hotels in the capital were the object of attacks.
This morning Cardinal Filoni presided over the laying of the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the St. Antony sanctuary and talked with the population and those involved in the works. Also today, a visit was paid to the President and a meeting was held with the Bishops, during which the missionary nature of the Church and the most relevant pastoral themes were discussed. Mgr. Norbert Andradi OMI, Bishop Anuradhapura, president of the Commission for the laity of the Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, commented the meeting to Fides: "Cardinal Filoni expressed all the closeness and solidarity of Pope Francis. It is an important encouragement to us all. He told us about the concern of the Holy Father towards our faithful, affected by the Easter attacks. Today, one month after that tragedy, the faithful are still shocked, there is even fear of going to church. We are trying to restore the devastated churches and, above all, to rebuild hope in our hearts. We thank Cardinal Filoni for his visit: it is for all of us a source of great consolation, which helps us to resume the journey and to overcome, with the grace of God, the trauma suffered by our Church with the Easter terrorist attacks".
Tomorrow, May 23, the Cardinal will go to the church of St. Sebastian in Negombo, for a meeting with the population. Then he will visit the the cemetery in Negombo and preside over the laying of the first stone of the new cemetery chapel. Later he will meet some families affected by the attacks. On Friday 24th there will be a meeting with priests and religious. In these three days the Cardinal will meet civil and religious personalities. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 22/5/2019)