Sunday Masses are CANCELLED until further notice in Sri Lanka

Sunday Masses are CANCELLED until further notice in Sri Lanka

April 26, 2019

Sunday Masses are CANCELLED until further notice in Sri Lanka following Easter Sunday bombings, Archbishop of Colombo says

  • Sri Lanka’s Catholic church has suspended all Sunday Masses over security fears
  • It comes as several suspects remain unaccounted for over the Easter attacks  
  • Archbishop of Colombo made the announcement in a press conference today 

Sunday Masses in Sri Lanka have been cancelled until further notice following the Easter bombings, says the Archbishop of Colombo.  

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith made the announcement during a news conference in the Sri Lankan capital on Friday. 

He also used the conference to appeal for financial support to rebuild the lives of the victims of the terror attack and to reconstruct the churches targeted.

The Islamic State-claimed suicide bombings killed more than 250 people on Sunday and officials are still searching for suspects.

The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, announced that all Sunday Masses were cancelled

A view of St. Sebastian’s Church, which was damaged in the blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, on Sunday morning

The US Embassy in Sri Lanka has warned people to stay away from places of worship this weekend over concerns about possible further attacks. 

On Friday, authorities urged Muslims not to hold congregational prayers over fears that they might be targeted.

However, several mosques did under the protection of security forces.

The decision comes just days after senior priests had shared their fears over security following the bombings.    

‘On the advice of the security forces we are keeping all churches closed,’ a senior Catholic priest said. 

Private services for burials were still carried out, but no public masses are scheduled until further notice.

Security forces made several arrests over the attacks this week, as the government faced pressure over its failure to act on intelligence warnings about possible bombings. 

Wreckage: Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the damage at St Anthony’s Shrine

Investigators at the scene of a bombing at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, on Monday

Police have so far arrested 75 people but tensions remain high with several suspects still on the loose since suicide bombers blew themselves up in luxury hotels and churches packed with Easter worshippers on Sunday.

The president has asked the police chief and top defence ministry bureaucrat to step down, though neither has done so yet. 

Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said the army had increased its deployment by 1,300 to 6,300, with the navy and airforce also deploying 2,000 more personnel.

More than 1,000 mourners gathered at the St. Sebastian church in Negombo, where more than 100 parishioners were killed as they worshipped on Sunday morning

Authorities also announced a ban on drone flights and suspended licences issued to commercial operators with immediate effect. 

Sri Lanka’s police chief had warned on April 11 that suicide bombings against ‘prominent churches’ by the local Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) were possible, citing information from a foreign intelligence agency.

CNN reported that Indian intelligence services had passed on ‘unusually specific’ information in the weeks before the attacks, some of it from an IS suspect in their custody.

At least 359 people were killed in coordinated bombings by eight men who had pledged allegiance to ISIS targeting Christians and tourists on Easter Sunday 

Sri Lankan authorities have said that the bombers were motivated to attack churches in revenge for the New Zealand mosque attack in Christchurch

But that information was not shared with the prime minister or other top ministers, the government has said.

‘It was a major lapse in the sharing of information,’ deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene conceded at a press conference on Wednesday.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also defence and law and order minister, pledged Tuesday to make ‘major changes in the leadership of the security forces in the next 24 hours’.

On Thursday, he met the country’s political parties to discuss the crisis, and later will meet religious leaders as concerns rise about a potential backlash against Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority.

An inside view of the St. Anthony’s Shrine after an explosion hit St Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade in Colombo 

Investigators are still piecing information together about the attack and those involved, with Wijewardene revealing Wednesday that one attacker had studied in Britain and did post-graduate studies in Australia before returning to Sri Lanka.

‘Most of them are well-educated and come from middle, upper-middle class families, so they are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially, that is a worrying factor in this,’ the minister added.

A key suspect, NTJ leader Zahran Hashim, appears to be among eight people seen in a video released Tuesday by IS after it claimed the attacks.

Officials said it was still unclear whether Hashim was among the suicide attackers or had escaped after the blasts.

Authorities have said they cannot rule out further attacks while suspects remain at large.

In all, nine people are believed to have blown themselves up on Sunday, either during attacks or when police attempted to arrest them.

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