ASIA/SRI LANKA - Commemoration of the victims of the Easter attacks: Catholic Church wants to initiate the beatification process of their martyrdom

Monday, 22 April 2024

Colombo (Agenzia Fides) - Yesterday, April 21, in the Archdiocese of Colombo - but also in the other dioceses of Sri Lanka - with Eucharistic celebrations, ringing of bells and two minutes of silence, the country's Catholics commemorated their "martyrs", the victims of the Easter attacks on April 21, 2019. At that time, eight suicide bombers carried out attacks on two Catholic churches, a Protestant church and three luxury hotels, killing a total of 269 people and injuring more than 500. These included 171 Catholic believers who were killed during services in the Catholic churches of St. Sebastian and St. Anthony.
Five years after these tragic events, the local church announced on Remembrance Day its decision to initiate the process of recognizing martyrdom. At the commemoration in Negombo - where the "Martyrs' Chapel" stands in the cemetery where the Catholic victims are buried - a petition with the signatures of more than 50,000 faithful was presented to the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith. Based on this petition from the population, the Archdiocese of Colombo will now forward the official request to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints in order to begin the diocesan phase of the beatification process. "The collection of signatures and sensitization of the faithful has been ongoing since the beginning of Lent. People are aware of the gift of faith of these innocent people who were murdered in the church while celebrating the Resurrection of Christ," explains Father Jude Chrysantha Fernando, head of the office for Communications of the Archdiocese of Colombo, to Fides. "Yesterday there was a large participation of the faithful in the celebrations: in the morning, memorial masses were held in all churches and a special ceremony was held in the presence of Cardinal Ranjith at the Church of Saint Anthony in Colombo.
The memorial event was also attended by the Apostolic Nuncio in Sri Lanka, Archbishop Brian Udaigwe, as well as religious leaders from various faiths and representatives of civil society. The thousands of people observed a solemn two-minute silence, which was also observed in churches across the country, to honor and remember the victims". In the afternoon, the faithful marched in procession from the Shrine of St. Anthony to the Church of St. Sebastian in Negombo, another site of the attacks, and in the presence of several Sri Lankan bishops, the popular initiative was presented, along with the signatures and the booklet that will be sent to the Holy See to receive the "nihil obstat" and to be able to begin the diocesan process to proclaim the 171 killed faithful as martyrs. Father Fernando reported that "it was a moment of great spiritual intensity for the Catholic community of Sri Lanka: the memory of these 'heroes of the faith' is alive and a source of inspiration for many." "There is great devotion. The gift of these martyrs is an encouragement for everyone in the difficulties of the present, marked by the dramatic effects of the economic crisis, but also by the lack of justice", he said.
Cardinal Ranjith focused on these aspects, recalling that the Catholic Church has been calling for justice and truth for five years, an appeal still unheard by politicians, and reiterated the call for an independent international investigation to establish the facts to determine responsibility and complicity in the 2019 attacks. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 22/4/2024)