International News

Easter Massacre Victims Should Be Martyrs, Say Petitioners

A clergyman prays over the casket of 13-year-old Dhami Brindya during her burial in Negombo, Sri Lanka, in this file photo from April 25, 2019. The teen was one of 272 people killed on April 21, 2019, which was Easter, in separate suicide bomb attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. The dead included more than 50 children, and more than 500 other people were injured. (Photo: CNS/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters)

By The Tablet Staff

More than 50,000 Catholics in Sri Lanka have appealed to the Vatican to recognize the 171 victims of the 2019 Easter massacre as martyrs. This tragedy unfolded on April 21, 2019, when eight suicide bombers struck two Catholic churches, a Protestant church, and three luxury hotels, resulting in the loss of 269 lives and leaving over 500 wounded.

Among the casualties, 171 were Catholics attending Mass at St. Sebastian and St. Anthony Churches in Colombo, the nation’s capital. Five years later, on April 21, 2024, the local church announced its intention to initiate the process of acknowledging the martyrdom of these individuals. The petition was presented to Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo.

The Archdiocese of Colombo will formally request the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican to commence the diocesan phase of the beatification process. Father Jude Chrysantha Fernando, director of the archdiocese’s communications office, emphasized the ongoing efforts to raise awareness and garner support among the faithful. He highlighted the profound faith of those innocents who perished while celebrating Christ’s resurrection.

On the anniversary of the tragedy, numerous faithful participated in memorial Masses and a special ceremony presided over by Cardinal Ranjith at St. Anthony Church. This solemn occasion also saw the presence of religious leaders and civil authorities. Throughout Colombo and across the country, thousands observed a two-minute silence to honor and remember the lives lost during the Easter attacks of 2019.

Father Fernando described the moment as spiritually profound for Sri Lanka’s Catholic community, emphasizing that the memory of these “heroes of the faith” continues to inspire many. During the Mass at St. Anthony Church, Cardinal Ranjith reiterated the church’s longstanding call for justice and urged an international, independent investigation into the 2019 attacks.