Cardinal condemns suicide bombings as Sri Lanka marks one week from attacks

Sri Lankan security personnel keep watch outside the church
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Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic leader on Sunday condemned the Easter attacks as “an insult to humanity” as the country marked a week since suicide bombers hit three churches and three luxury hotels.

The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, held a private mass shown live on television after cancelling all public services amid fears of a repeat of the attacks which left 253 dead.

But a heavily guarded vigil was held outside St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo at 8.45am, the moment the bomber struck the church last week, killing dozens of worshippers.

The archbishop began his mass with an appeal for peace and unity in the multi-ethnic South Asian country which has been put on edge by the attacks which also left nearly 500 injured.

“What happened last Sunday is a great tragedy, an insult to humanity,” the cardinal said, urging followers to show kindness to others as a sign of respect for all the victims.

“Today during this mass we are paying attention to last Sunday’s tragedy and we try to understand it. We pray that those who lost their lives that day have eternal life through the Lord and those who were injured will be healed soon.

“In the same way, we pray that in this country there will be peace and co-existence and understanding each other without division,” he said.

At the devastated St Anthony’s Shrine, armed troops and police guarded the church as its bells rang out at the moment a suicide bomber blew himself up. The hands on the clock tower clock are stuck at 8.45.

Around 20 women holding candles outside the church pressed their palms together, many weeping silently while others sobbed and murmured prayers.

The government has blamed the attacks on a local radical militant group affiliated to the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility.