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Sri Lanka Cardinal: ‘The Massacre Could Have Been Avoided’

Sri Lanka's newly appointed Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Father Malcolm Ranjith, arrives at the felicitation ceremony in Colombo on December 6, 2010. Christians account for about 7.5 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people. AFP PHOTO/Ishara S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Sri Lanka’s highest-ranking Catholic prelate said Wednesday the decision by national intelligence officials to conceal information about the possibility of a terrorist attack is “extremely serious,” since “it means that the massacre could have been avoided.”

In an interview with Italy’s Religion Information Service (SIR), Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said citizens are both in sorrow over the incident and irate with their own government. “If our local security agencies do not do their job, to whom can we turn?” he asked.

“We have already celebrated ten funerals,” the cardinal said, indicating there had been several, with more to come, in order to honor and pray for the 250 Catholics killed by the Islamist suicide bombers on Easter Sunday out of a total of 359 victims. It was decided not to hold one large funeral for all the victims, but a number of smaller funerals so as not to provide another tempting target for attacks.

Sunday’s bombings struck the Catholic churches of Saint Anthony and Saint Sebastian, along with attacks on a Protestant church and three high-end hotels.

“The Catholic community is destroyed and we have a lot of work to do,” Ranjith said. “We will try to stay close to our people with prayer and assistance. Once all the burials are over we will see what to do next.”

So far, police have identified eight of the nine suicide bombers, noting that many had studied abroad and had international connections. In all, security forces have arrested 60 people suspected to have had a role in planning the attacks.

“We are asking that all the factors be investigated and that those responsible be arrested and punished according to the law of the country,” the cardinal said.

Ranjith downplayed theories suggesting possible ties between the Easter massacre and the mosque bombing in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month.

“They are theories. The Deputy Minister of Defense said this in parliament but I do not believe it,” he said. “The Christchurch massacre has nothing to do with us. They would have had to retaliate in that bomber’s country of origin. Sri Lanka has nothing to do with it.”

“In my opinion these are the moves of some international agencies interested in stirring things up in our country. They use this terrorist group to scare us and achieve their goals,” he said.

The cardinal also expressed his opinion that certain “geopolitical interests” were likely involved in the attacks.

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