CHURCH services in Sri Lanka were cancelled, but worshippers took to the streets in a show of solidarity for the hundreds killed and wounded in Easter Sunday terror bomb attacks.
“Yes, they are praying in the streets – this is a sign of courage,” Brisbane Dominican Father Pancras Jordan said after speaking to Church communities in his homeland.
He said “curfew conditions” existed in some neighbourhoods, and some parishioners were afraid to go outside their homes, as police continued searching for Islamic State-aligned militants connected with the attacks.
However at the same time, some worshippers showed they were not cowering, and gathered outside St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, one of the places attacked on Easter Sunday.
In Brisbane, Archbishop Mark Coleridge described death becoming “new life” as he spoke strongly about the plight of Sri Lankans during his Divine Mercy Sunday homily.
“It can seem almost perverse to speak of mercy at a time when we’ve seen how merciless the world can be, as merciless as young people walking among the innocent with a backpack full of bombs, as merciless as the demonic schemers who send them to their death,” Archbishop Coleridge said inside a packed St Stephen’s Cathedral, during a Memorial Mass for Sri Lanka concelebrated with Fr Jordan on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 28).
“But mercy – certainly the mercy of God – always sees more, sees beyond all that is merciless in the world. God sees our misery and our mercilessness but knows that we are more than these.
“God sees the horror of this agony in Sri Lanka but knows that this is not the full story … Easter isn’t destroyed by bombs.
“Divine mercy has its way.”
St Anthony’s, in Colombo’s busiest market place, is popular among worshippers from different faiths, including Hindus and Muslims.
Rows of flags in black and white were put up along the street, as if to register grief, protest and solidarity at once, as worshippers lit candles and prayed for peace.
With persisting security concerns, the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, cancelled all church services and instead held a Sunday Mass at his home that was televised.
Commemorative services, like the one in Brisbane, were held around the world.
“The attacks weren’t just against a particular religious community or even a nation,” Archbishop Coleridge said. “These were attacks against humanity; and here this morning that’s what we recognise as we come together from all our different countries and communities, rejecting every ideology of tribe and identity.
“Our humanity draws us together, because it’s our humanity that has been attacked.”
An Australian appeal has been established to support the Catholic community in Sri Lanka, with donations to be forwarded on to support a special fund set up by Cardinal Ranjith.
“So many families need medical assistance,” Fr Jordan said.
Archbishop Coleridge said it was not only Christians who died. The attacks on churches and luxury hotels had also claimed Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and others.
“Nor was it only one part of the Sri Lankan population that was struck,” the Archbishop said.
“Sinhalese died, but so too did Tamils and others – and this after the horrors of a civil war that lasted for more than 25 years.
“If Easter is the masterpiece of heaven, attacks such as these are the masterpiece of hell.
“In such a moment, the Risen Jesus stands among us here this morning – as he did blood-spattered in the church in Negombo (one of the churches bombed).
“He stands there, the One who descended into hell, coming fresh from the tomb, bearing not only the wounds of his own death but also the blood of those murdered during Mass.
“He stands with hand raised in greeting, and he speaks the words he first spoke when he rose from the dead: ‘Peace be with you’.”
Fr Jordan said Archbishop Coleridge had spoken powerfully in a way that touched the Sri Lankan community, many keeping close contact with family members scattered across the island nation.