By Robin Gomes
While reiterating its “sincerest condolences” to Sri Lankans for “horrific terrorist attacks out against the innocent” on April 21, the Holy See called for actions to eliminate terrorism, saying words of mere condemnation are not enough.
Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN in New York, Archbishop Bernadito Auza, denounced Easter Sunday’s suicide bomb attacks on 3 churches and 4 hotels in the island nation and assured prayers for the victims and their families.
More than 250 people were killed, including foreigners, and over 500 were injured.
Actions, not words
“Words of condemnation, however sincere, are not enough,” the Holy See’s diplomat told a commemorative event for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks held at the United Nations in New York on Friday. “Actions,” he stressed, “are required to eliminate this scourge at its roots.”
The Filipino archbishop reiterated Pope Francis’ “words of profound human and spiritual closeness to the people of Sri Lanka as well as the assurance of his continued prayers for those who perished, those who survived the trauma, and all those who are grieving.”
Archbishop Auza pointed out that what happened in Sri Lanka is a deliberate attack against Christians.
“To overlook the explicitly anti-Christian aspect of these attacks,” he said, “would do an injustice to the victims, the survivors and their families.” He said that the international community is very forthright, and rightly so, in decrying rising anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hatred. “The same standard must be applied to attacks against Christians,” he demanded.
He said that the recent General Assembly Resolution of April 2 was right when it condemned “all terrorist attacks against places of worship that are motivated by religious hatred, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia.”
“Terrorist attacks are always and everywhere deplorable, but attacks on religious believers at worship,” he stressed, “are the most shameful and cowardly attack against peace imaginable.” “That’s what happened in Sri Lanka. And the whole world justly mourns,” Archbishop Auza added.
Nearly 2 weeks after the terror attacks, Sri Lanka is still living in fear. Police Sri Lanka have requested members of the public hand over swords or other large knives to the nearest police stations after hundreds of such blades were discovered in Mosques and homes during searches in the aftermath of suicide bomb attacks.
Police have asked people to hand over camouflaged materials similar to those worn by the military after large amounts of such material were uncovered in raids.
Sunday Masses and services in Catholic churches are being cancelled for a second weekend in Sri Lanka's capital after the government warned of more possible attacks by the same Islamic State-linked group that carried out the Easter suicide bombings.
The Associated Press reported Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, as saying he has received "foreign information" that attempts would be made this week to attack a church and another church institution.
Fr. Edmund Tillakaratne, spokesman for Colombo Archdiocese, said on Thursday that the cardinal had cancelled all Sunday services in the archdiocese.
Last week, all of Sri Lanka's Catholic churches were closed. The faithful followed a Mass and homily on television, celebrated by Card. Ranjith. Present at the televised service at his residence were the clergy and national leaders.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka has criticized the government for failing to act after security forces are said to have received warnings ahead of Easter Sunday’s attacks.