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More than 50,000 Catholics have asked the Church in Sri Lanka to recognize as martyrs the 171 victims of the 2019 Easter massacre in the island nation. On April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, eight suicide bombers attacked two Catholic churches, a Protestant church, and three luxury hotels, killing 269 people and leaving more than 500 injured.

Of the victims, 171 were Catholic faithful who were attending Mass at St. Sebastian and St. Anthony Churches in Colombo, the capital of the Asian country.

Five years after the tragedy, on Sunday, April 21, the local Church announced that it will begin the procedures to recognize the martyrdom of the 171 Catholics, who were remembered with various initiatives, including a petition with more than 50,000 signatures that was presented to the archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith.

The Archdiocese of Colombo will now send an official request to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints to proceed with the opening of the diocesan phase of the beatification cause.

“The collection of signatures and raising awareness among the faithful has been underway since the beginning of Lent. Among the people there is full awareness of the gift of faith of those innocent people, murdered in the church while celebrating the resurrection of Christ,” Father Jude Chrysantha Fernando, director of the archdiocese’s communications office, told the Vatican news agency Fides from Colombo.

The priest said that on Sunday “there was a large participation of the faithful in the celebrations: in the morning memorial Masses were held in all churches and a special ceremony was held in the presence of Cardinal Ranjith at St. Anthony Church in Colombo” as well as with other religious leaders and civil authorities.

In Colombo thousands of people observed “a solemn two-minute moment of silence, which was also observed in churches across the country, to honor and remember those who lost their lives” on Easter 2019.

“It was a moment of great spiritual intensity for the Catholic community of Sri Lanka: The memory of these ‘heroes of the faith’ is alive and a source of inspiration for many,” Fernando told Fides.

In the Mass held at St. Anthony Church, Ranjith noted that the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has been asking for justice for five years and demanding that an international and independent investigation into the 2019 attacks be carried out.

By Walter Sánchez Silva

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