One of the Vatican’s top officials has made an unheralded visit to Sri Lanka to show solidarity with Catholics still reeling from the Easter bombings that claimed over 250 lives and injured more than 400. Source: ucanews.com.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, said during his three-day trip on Tuesday that it was time to focus on rebuilding the nation.
The cardinal condemned the April 21 bombings on a handful of luxury hotels and churches in the capital Colombo and Negombo by local extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group as an attack on the nation as a whole, rather than being directed at Christians alone.
“What happened on Easter Sunday was not only an act against a few people or a religion, it was an act against the people of Sri Lanka,” he said.
The prelate flew to Colombo after a trip to Thailand to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Church’s mission to Siam, during which he highlighted the challenges evangelisation efforts face across Asia.
While paying a call on the national shrine of St Anthony at Kochchikade in Colombo, he spoke to some of the bereaved family members from the Easter attacks.
“I am here, first of all, to bring you all closer to Pope Francis,” he said at the holy venue where the first of the coordinated blasts took place. It is now being reconstructed with the assistance of the Sri Lankan Navy.
The papal representative’s itinerary included stops at all three major cities targeted by the terrorists, including Batticaloa on the eastern side of the island nation, and meetings with various priests and civil and religious personalities.
At St Sebastian Church in Negombo, which suffered the heaviest casualties, he took part in a ground-breaking ceremony for a new cemetery chapel.
The cardinal also joined a foundation-stone-laying event for a museum where relics of St Anthony will be placed. The building will include a soup kitchen that will provide free meals to nearly 200 people of all faiths on a daily basis.