THE Secretary General for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Father Tadeusz J Nowak, OMI, has called on Catholics worldwide to support the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies—such as Missio Scotland—to help rebuild lives and the Church in Sri Lanka after the devastating terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday.
The attacks, which are believed to be the work of the Islamic State group, saw two churches and three hotels in Colombo and a church in Batticloa targeted by suicide bombers. As a result of the blasts, some 404 Sri Lankans—including 45 children—and 38 foreign nationals have died to date, while more than 500 others have been injured.
The first bomb exploded inside St Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade and was closely followed by the blast inside St Joseph’s Church in Katana and another inside the ‘Seevon’ Church in Batticloa. The three hotels attacked were the Shangrilla, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsburry, all situated in the heart of Colombo and in close proximity to one another. It was the first time in the history of Sri Lanka that Catholic churches have been the target of terrorist attacks.
“We have all been profoundly shaken by the tragic events in Sri Lanka during the most important Feast on the Liturgical Calendar,” Fr Nowak said. “The Archdiocese of Colombo, in particular, has experienced the major part of the senseless carnage: loss of hundreds of precious lives and injuries to hundreds more. Physical ecclesial structures have also been hit by the bombings.
“The PMS National Director in Sri Lanka, Fr Basil Rohan Fernando, has appealed for help and support for the Church in Sri Lanka, especially in Colombo.”
In a letter sent to Missio Scotland, Fr Fernando explained the distressing situation in the country at the moment, while also explaining how His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo had been trying to bring some peace and comfort to all those affected by the attacks.
“Immediately after the attacks were carried out His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of the diocese of Colombo personally visited the explosion sites, spoke with the people there and expressed his deep sorrow and grief to the victims and their families,” Fr Fernando said. “One particularly tragic case saw five members of one family—the father, mother and three children, aged 11 months, were all killed instantly. Many who miraculously escaped death—but were badly wounded—are now lying in hospital beds undergoing treatment but do not know, and have not been told, that some of their family members have lost their lives.
“It is truly sad and heart breaking to have seen and heard devastation as we did on a Holy Day like Easter Sunday 2019. The Catholic faithful were participating at the Holy Eucharist in the said churches and the suicide bombers simply walked in and carried out their deadly attacks. Before the faithful realised what was happening, they had all gone. Many had to lay down their precious priceless lives at the feet of the Lord, the life giving God and as such we have to accept the fact that those who had to die inside a Church this day are all blessed and rightfully be called Martyrs of the Catholic Church and we pray that the Heaven’s doors be opened to them instantly. We have to pray incessantly too for the dear departed souls and for the speedy recovery of the wounded victims of the blasts who are now under treatment at the Hospitals in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.”
Fr Fernando—who has also visited the sites of the atrocities as well as those injured by them—has outlined the programmes that he hopes to launch in the wake of the attacks, while also appealing to supporters of the Pontifical Mission Societies worldwide to play their part in helping to rebuild lives and the Church in Sri Lanka.
“As National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, am trying my best possible to launch and carry out workable programmes to: help the wounded; help the affected families who have lost family members to deal with their trauma; and establish a counselling network,” he said. “We appeal to your good selves to come forward to assist us in carrying out the said programmes in whatever way possible. We are taking every action possible to be of help and support to the affected and we kindly look forward to your generous assistance for this good cause. Meantime, we would also ask you to continue to pray for our country, the Catholic faithful and the Church.”
If you would like to donate to our Sri Lankan Appeal, you can do so by visiting: www.missioscotland.com/sri-lankan-appeal