Sri Lanka reconsecrates St Sebastian’s church

By Matters India Reporter

Negombo, July 21, 2019: St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, a suburb of Sri Lanka’s Negombo town, was reopened on July 21, exactly three months after it was severely damaged in a suicide bombing.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, head of the Catholic Church in the island nation who led the consecration ceremony, blamed adamant leaders without proper policies for the loss of innocent lives on the Easter Sunday attacks.

The cardinal, who is the archbishop of Colombo, further stated that the time has come for the leaders to step down if they are unable to govern the country.

The suicide bombings on April 21, the Easter Sunday, killed 257 people in three different churches and three hotels.

St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo was the worst hit.

A monument, inscribed with the names of 114 people, who died during the church attack, was also unveiled during the consecration ceremony.

The cardinal said the people who died on the Easter day are already in heaven.

A large number of people, including the victims’ families, attended the ceremony.

Earlier, St. Anthony’s shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo, was reopened after the renovation on June 12, the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua. The shrine was also repaired and renovated by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Opening the churches, Cardinal Ranjith asked Christians to pray for lasting peace in the country.

Meanwhile, the Office of Reparation (OoR) of the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs published a statement on the compensation paid to victims. The OoR paid a total of 265,787,500 rupees for the 201 dead and 442 injured in the blasts. Of this, families of the dead received 199,350,000 rupees and the injured 66,437,500 rupees.

The Archdiocese also has collected and earmarked sums for the rehabilitation of the victims affected by the bomb blasts.

A sum of 53.1 million rupees has been allocated to buy land and construct houses for families, 35.2 million rupees for daily living expenses of victims, 30.3 million rupees for the livelihood of low-income families, 32 million rupees for the disabled and those continuing to receive medical care, and 102.5 million rupees to the education of affected children.

More than 36 million rupees is allotted for the psychological and spiritual wellbeing of the people and for special assistance.

Shyami Siriwardane, a Catholic woman from Negombo, told Matters India that the situation is back to normal with regular masses happening in all churches, though with police security still.

The church offered a noon alms giving for 3,000 people, a cultural practice mostly followed by the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. The food was also prepared by the Sri Lankan Army, Navy and the Air force.

The church has bought 140 perches of land near to the church and plans to give 28 houses to victims.

“The Sri Lankan navy speedily reconstructed the church,” Father Manjula of the church told reporters.

While describing the horror scene at the St Sebastian’s Church, another priest said that pieces of flesh were thrown all over the walls, on the sanctuary and even outside the church.

Built in 1946, St Sebastian’s is one of the many churches in Sri Lanka dedicated to the saint, who is considered a martyr in the Catholic Church history.

Addressing the gathering after the reconsecration ceremony, Cardinal Ranjith questioned the ongoing probe into the blasts and said he fear that the investigation “will be brush under the carpet”.

He had earlier urged the government to launch a “very impartial strong inquiry” into the terror attack and punish those found responsible “mercilessly because only animals can behave like that.”

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