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Cardinal Ranjith leads Sri Lankan Catholics in prayer for justice two years after Easter bombing

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith outside his residence in Colombo Sri Lanka on Jan 13 2015 Credit Alan Holdren CNA 2 CNA 1 13 15 Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Jan. 13, 2015./ Alan Holdren/CNA.

Praying in one of the churches that was bombed on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka two years ago, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the bombing victims’ families asked that “the full and complete truth behind this bloodshed be made known.”

“Almighty Father, God of truth and justice, we firmly believe that you never forsake your flock in the face of trials and tribulations,” Cardinal Ranjith prayed in St. Anthony’s Church after the April 3 Easter Vigil Mass.

“Look with compassion on your children who are experiencing the bitter consequences of the horrendous terrorist attack … Lend your ear to the earnest application of those who through their tears plead with you that the full and complete truth behind this bloodshed be made known,” he prayed.

The “Prayer for the Emergence of Truth of the Easter Sunday Massacre,” recited by all in the congregation, included the plea: “Just as the blood of Abel cried out to you for justice, the blood of our brothers and sisters, the Easter bomb victims, now cries out to you for truth and justice. Guide our civil leaders to conduct all investigations impartially and for transparency.”

More than 260 people died and over 500 were injured in the coordinated suicide bombings on three churches, four hotels, and one housing complex on Easter Sunday in 2019.

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Ahead of the attacks, foreign intelligence gave warnings to the government. But a communication breakdown between the then president and prime minister reportedly led to a failure to stop the attacks.

The archbishop of Colombo has been pushing for Sri Lankan authorities to be held responsible for failing to prevent the bombings following the completion of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry’s report into the government’s handling of the attacks.

Sri Lankan soldiers stand guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, April 29, 2019.  /  Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP / Getty Images.

The cardinal told reporters outside of St. Anthony’s Church on April 4 that the former president Maithripala Sirisena was identified in the commission’s final report and should be prosecuted for negligence.

“President Sirisena’s guilt has been identified in the commission report,” Ranjith said, according to AFP.

“I ask President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government why they are dragging their feet without prosecuting him.”

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“We will take to the streets if no action is taken by April 21,” Ranjith said, referring to the anniversary of the bombings.

Sri Lankan Catholics already took part in demonstrations earlier this year together with Buddhists and Muslims, on a day known as “Black Sunday,” to demand justice and transparency.

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry -- originally established by Sirisena in 2019 to investigate how the government handled intelligence related to the Easter bombings -- completed its final report in February 2021 but did not release its findings to the public.

Instead, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a new six-member committee to study the report without first sharing it with the Church, or with the attorney general to prosecute suspects.

Asia News said in March that Cardinal Ranjith had a copy of the commission of inquiry’s report and said that it contained “many things that can be enforced.”

The cardinal called on Sri Lankan authorities “not wash their hands like Pontius Pilate,” but to do all they can to seek justice.

“Our protest movement will continue with the involvement of other religious organizations until we get a definitive sign,” he said.

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