The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has announced that victims of the 2019 Easter bombings could be named martyrs and saints. At least some of the 273 people who were killed in the bombing of three churches, including 11 Christians from India, will see their causes for sainthood advance on April 21, 2024, the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attack.
The 2019 Easter bombings saw nine terrorists from an Islamic extremist group with links to ISIS attack three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.
The Church is prepared to name the victims of the church attacks as martyrs, as they were killed in the midst of worship.
The announcement was made by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, who explained that the five-year waiting period between a person’s death and the elevation of their cause for sainthood will have concluded in April. According to NDTV World, the cardinal said:
“A person can be named a saint only after the completion of five years since one’s sacrifice. Therefore, we will move towards declaring Easter Sunday victims as saints on April 21 this year,” Ranjith said. “Those who died in churches in April 2019 sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. They came to church because they believed in Christ.”
There were a significant number of non-Christians who died in the attacks and one of the three churches was an Evangelical community.
While there is precedent for the mass canonization of martyrs, such as the 2013 canonization of the 813 martyrs of Otranto, this 15th-century example may not set the standard for modern-day sainthood causes.
Cardinal Ranjith has been very critical of the government’s investigation into the bombing, going so far as to suggest the investigation’s slow pace could be construed as a “great conspiracy.” In 2021, he argued that the Sri Lankan government had failed to prevent the attack even after it received advance notice from Indian intelligence:
“The authorities were informed four times by the Indian Intelligence Service. Activities at Lacto estate in Wanathawilluwa and the attack on Buddha statues in Mawanella made it clear that something terrible was going to happen. The authorities covered them up and let people be killed,” he said.
Aleteia reported in 2021 that Sri Lankan Christians had organized a silent protest in the midst of the pandemic lockdown, hanging black flags from their doors to highlight the perceived inaction by the government.
According to Al Jazeera, the ringleader of the attack was arrested later that year.