A grant of 100,000 euros has reached the families of the victims of the Easter attack on the sanctuary of Saint Anthony in Kochchikade
Ambulances are seen outside a church with gathered people and security personnel after an explosion at St Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo on April 21, 2019. (Photo: AFP)
Published: 16 Aug 2022 04:54 GMT
Updated: 16 Aug 2022 06:05 GMT
Families of victims and survivors of the 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka have thanked Pope Francis for extending financial support and speaking out for justice and reconciliation.
The Pope’s grant of €100,000 (about R36 million) was disbursed among the beneficiaries at the Kochchikade Shrine of Saint Anthony on August 14 in the presence of Archbishop Brian Udaigwe, Apostolic Nuncio, and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo.
The shrine was among the churches and hotels that were bombed by terrorists on April 21, 2019, killing 267 people and injuring 500 more on Easter Sunday.
Father Jude Chrisantha, the archdiocesan national director of mass communication, said the donation from Pope Francis was distributed among the families of the victims at the shrine in Kochchikade and St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya.
Around 380 families in Katuwapitiya and Kochchikade have been affected and Caritas Sethsarana, the social service arm of the Sri Lankan bishops, has been involved to support them in coordination with local churches.
“Families who lost a member are getting Rs 100,000 [US$279] while the critically injured get Rs. 75,000,” said Father Lawrence Ramanayake, director of Caritas Sethsarana.
“The situation of most of the victims’ families has worsened”
Affected families are also getting Rs 25,000 to help with medical, travel, educational, livelihood and legal assistance.
The local church also runs a scholarship program for 228 children.
MN Fernando, who lost his son in the suicide blasts and was among the recipients of 100,000 rupees, said the pope and the local church were “our only hope now as the government has failed us”.
Fernando, who was part of the 60-member delegation that met with Pope Francis in April 2022, said the Church was helping with children’s education and managing homes.
“The situation of most of the victims’ families has worsened due to the current economic crisis in the country,” he said.
Another victim, who did not want to be named, said they received only negligible amounts of government aid.
“Many of the officials held responsible for their failure to prevent the attacks are today in high positions”
He said the previous government (of Gotabaya Rajapaksha) had come to power feigning sympathy for the victims but did little to help them.
“Many officials, held responsible for their failure to prevent the attacks, are today in high positions,” he said as he lamented the lack of justice for the victims.
He thanked Pope Francis for his help and also for lending his voice to all those who are still suffering because of the Easter Sunday attacks.
Speaking at the event, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said the Church will continue the fight to seek justice for the victims and urged the president to investigate allegations of political conspiracy behind the attacks.
“I’m asking the president [Ranil Wickremesinghe] Please be honest and feel free to explain what your self-appointed committee has said in its findings,” he said.