By Devin Watkins
“I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community [of Sri Lanka], wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence.”
Pope Francis spoke those words of solidarity at the conclusion of his Easter Urbi et Orbi address to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father said the multiple attacks on churches and hotels around Sri Lanka “have wrought grief and sorrow”.
“I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished,” he said, “and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.”
Three churches targeted
Unknown attackers set off at least seven explosives on Easter Sunday morning at three churches and four hotels.
Two of the churches targeted were Catholic and one was an evangelical church.
The first blast hit St. Anthony’s Catholic Shrine in Kochchikade, a district north of the capital Colombo, causing heavy casualties.
Dozens of people died at St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Negombo, another district north of Colombo.
The targeted evangelical church was in Batticaloa in Eastern Province, where more than two dozen people were killed.
The explosions struck within a short period of time, all targeting the faithful as Easter services were beginning.
Four hotels bombed
At around the same time on Sunday morning, blasts struck four hotels in Colombo, including the Shangri-La Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand.
At least nine foreigners were killed in Sunday’s attacks.
Archbishop of Colombo
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, said it is “a very, very sad day for all of us.”
“I wish, therefore, to express my deepest sorrow and sympathy to all those innocent families that have lost someone, and also to those who have been injured and rendered destitute,” he continued.
Cardinal Ranjith said, “I condemn – to the utmost of my capacity – this act that has caused so much death and suffering to the people.”
He also called on Sri Lanka’s government to hold “a very impartial, strong inquiry and find out who is responsible behind these acts”.