Sri Lanka Cardinal: ‘I Would Have Canceled’ Easter Mass if Bomb Warnings Were Passed On
Warnings reportedly came from the Indian government and from other intelligence sources, and said directly that churches could be targeted by Islamist terrorist attacks.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - The Archbishop of Colombo says that government officials in Sri Lanka should be fired for failing to act on tips that terrorists attacks were imminent in the hours preceding Easter Sunday bombings in the country.
“It's absolutely unacceptable behavior on the part of these high officials of the government, including some of the ministry officials,” Cardinal Malcom Ranjith said April 23 in response to reports that Sri Lankan officials did not pass on credible warnings in the hours before the April 21 attacks, including some that specified that Catholic Church would be targeted.
Warnings reportedly came from the Indian government and from other intelligence sources, and said directly that churches could be targeted by Islamist terrorist attacks. Government officials have promised an inquiry into those reports.
“These kind of officials should be immediately sacked, removed from these positions. And human beings who have a feeling for the needs of others and for the people must be inserted into these positions,” Ranjith said.
The cardinal added that if he had been warned that Catholic Churches could be bombed on Easter Sunday, he would have cancelled Sunday Masses, “because, for me, the most important thing is human life. Human beings, they are our treasure.”
“I would have cancelled even the holy week itself,” Ranjith told Radio Canada.
Thousands of Catholics attended Easter Sunday Masses at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Negombo, both of which were bombed at 8:45 a.m. Easter morning, as was the evangelical Zion Church in Batticaolo, on Sri Lanka’s east coast.
On the same morning, three hotels were bombed, as were other locations across the country.
At least 359 people are dead.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and more than 60 Sri Lankans have been arrested or questioned.
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has asked Hemasari Ferando, one of the country’s defense ministers, to resign, along with police Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara. Both are accused of mishandling intelligence reports.
Ranjith old EWTN News Nightly that the local Catholic community has suffered tremendously because of the horrible massacre on Easter Sunday.
“We lost so many valuable lives in both churches ... a huge amount of people,” Cardinal Ranjith told EWTN News Nightly April 22.
The Sri Lankan cardinal said that he rushed to St. Anthony’s shrine as soon as he heard of the attack Sunday morning, but the police did not allow him to enter because they suspected that more bombs could be inside the church.
“From the outside I saw a lot of devastation outside the church,” Ranjith said. “When I saw so many bodies, I was completely moved and disturbed.”
The Knights of Columbus have pledged $100,000 in aid for victims of the Sri Lankan attacks to help Cardinal Ranjith rebuild and repair his Christian community.
Pope Francis renewed his prayers for the victims in Sri Lanka and appealed for international support during his Regina Coeli address Monday.
“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary,” the pope said April 22.
“I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” he said.