Sri Lanka's Roman Catholic Church forgives Easter Sunday suicide bombers

A woman stands among the graves of victims of a suicide bomb attack on St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 28, 2019(Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

The Roman Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has said it forgives the suicide bombers who killed 259 people in attacks on Easter Sunday 2019. 

Suicide bombers carried out attacks at three churches and four hotels on April 21, 2019, injuring a further 600 people. 

In an Easter mass broadcast from a TV studio because of coronavirus restrictions, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said that the Church has "offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us". 

"We forgave them," he said. 

Fr Jude Raj Fernando, the Rector of the Shrine of St Anthony, Kochchikade, in Colombo, also has a message of forgiveness a year on. 

"Our faith is stronger than their bombs," Fr Jude says. "My first words which came out after the blast were: 'father forgive them, they do not know what they do'," he told The Tablet.

"I am still strong because of my faith," he adds. 

Easter celebrations in the country have been low key because of a lockdown put in place to slow the spread of the virus. 

As Sri Lanka continues to heal, there are still lingering concerns about interreligious relations and fresh tensions are emerging over the government's handling of the pandemic. 

Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council, which runs peacebuilding programmes, told the Guardian, "Covid is infecting anyone without any discrimination. We must not think on these divisive lines but face the problem together.

"Unless we are all secure, none of us will be secure, and that is the message that Covid is bringing us one year after the Easter bombings."