MASS attendance at one of the churches worst affected by the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka is 80 percent back to normal, according to the parish priest, who says a leading Catholic charity’s help is proving crucial for people’s recovery from trauma and bereavement.
In an interview to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Jude Fernando, rector of St Anthony’s Shrine, Colombo, thanked the charity for providing counselling services for victims of the bomb blasts on 21st April 2019, which killed at least 250 people and maimed more than 500 others. At St Anthony’s parish, 55 people died and 138 were injured – and there were more victims at Easter Day services in Batticaloa and Negombo.
Speaking during a visit to ACN’s international headquarters near Frankfurt, Germany, Father Fernando said for many of the victims the road to recovery has been slow and painful. In response, ACN funded 40 certified therapists to help people including the bereaved and a further 300 specialists have been trained with the charity’s support to provide psychological help for 2,000 people – families and children.
Thanking the charity, Father Fernando said: “The way we experienced your solidarity is highly appreciated. You have joined your prayers with ours. You shared in our pain and suffering. We will never forget your contributions in word and deed.”
Father Fernando highlighted that the bombings had helped bring people of different faiths together, stating that 40 percent of the people coming to his church each day are non-Christians – with many Buddhists and Muslims.
The shrine director went on to praise Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, for his steadfast support of the faithful in their grief and his calls for those responsible for the blasts to be brought to justice.
Referring to the cardinal, who has signalled he will call for street protests if the government fails to publish results of inquiries into the blast, Father Fernando said: “After the attacks, the Cardinal took leadership and spoke out in public and asked all the communities to forgive one another.”
Father Fernando stressed that people were still a long way from recovery and thanked ACN for backing a new counselling project, this time aimed at priests. The shrine director said: “The priests need help. If we are to be strong for others, we need to be strong ourselves. If we are weak, the people will remain weak.”