Sri Lanka Catholic church to declare Easter Sunday bomb attack victims saints

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Sri Lanka’s Catholic church has decided to move towards declaring as saints all the 273 people, including 11 Indians, killed in the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombings on its fifth anniversary. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, announced the move while addressing a mass on Sunday.

“A person can be named a saint only after the completion of 5 years since one’s sacrifice. Therefore, we will move towards declaring Easter Sunday victims as saints on April 21 this year,” Ranjith said. On April 21, 2019, nine suicide bombers belonging to the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

“Those who died in churches in April 2019 sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. They came to church because they believed in Christ,” Ranjith said. Over the last 5 years, Ranjith was at loggerheads with the government seeking justice for the victims. He slammed all investigations as a sham and a political cover-up.

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He has asked for an international investigation into the attacks. The government says it has arrested hundreds of people and the legal proceedings are moving forward. Previously, it was known that 270 people had died in the attacks. The then president Maithripala Sirisena and his top defence hierarchy were accused of inaction to prevent the attack despite the availability of prior intelligence from India.

Sirisena and the police top brass were ordered to pay compensation to the victims by the court. Reportedly, only part payments had been made so far. Sirisena denies the charge and blames the then defence establishment for the lapse which led to the coordinated attacks. The catholic church has a long process leading to sainthood.