Pope urges Sri Lanka to reveal identity of Easter 2019 bombers

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File photo: Pope Francis meets members of Sri Lankan community living in Italy, at the Vatican on 25 April 2022 (Reuters)
File photo: Pope Francis meets members of Sri Lankan community living in Italy, at the Vatican on 25 April 2022 (Reuters)

Pope Francis has urged Sri Lankan authorities to reveal the identity of those responsible for the 2019 Easter Sunday bombing that the nation’s Catholics allege was a plot to influence the election outcome in favour of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“Please, out of love for justice, out of love for your people, let be made clear once and for all who were responsible for these events,” said the Pope, as he met a delegation of the family of victims and survivors in Italy.

“This will bring peace to your conscience and to your country,” he said.

About 270 people, including 45 foreigners, were killed and about 500 injured in the attack three years ago, as three churches and three luxury hotels were hit in a series of coordinated attacks on 21 April 2019.

Addressing 3,500 Sri Lankan Catholics working in Italy, the Pope said he also hoped that the South Asian island state would survive its current economic crisis.

The country’s economy was hit hard by the pandemic and tax cuts by the Rajapaksa government, leading to dwindling foreign currency reserves and a severe shortage of food, fuel and medicines.

“Let us pray for the authorities, for those who have social and educational responsibilities and for all the people,” the Pope said. “May the present difficulties be solved with the commitment and collaboration of all.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who marked the third anniversary of the Easter bombings with a ceremony at St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo, last Thursday, did not mince words as he blamed the Sri Lankan president for failing to clean the country of “all elements of terror”.

“The incumbent president who campaigned on a promise to investigate the attack has forgotten all those promises, brushed commission findings under the rug, attempted to hide facts,” he said as he condemned the alleged cover up.

“Everyone responsible for this will suffer the consequences of their actions soon,” he told Vatican News.

Earlier in March, Cardinal Ranjith had sought the support of UN Human Rights Council as he voiced concern over the lack of progress in the probe.

“The first impression of this massacre was that it was purely the work of a few Islamic extremists,” he said in his address to the UN in Geneva. “However, subsequent investigations indicate that this massacre was part of a grand political plot.”

“Nearly three years after the horrendous crime, we are still in the dark as to what really happened on that Easter Sunday,” he added.

In February, Sri Lanka’s High Court had acquitted two top officials accused of “crime against humanity” for failing to prevent the 2019 attacks.

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