Pope Francis laments Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka

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Pope Francis laments Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka

Rome:Pope Francis on Sunday condemned attacks that killed at least 138 people in three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka as “such cruel violence” and said he was close to the Christian community, hit while celebrating Easter.

The blasts, which hospital and police officials said wounded more than 400 people, followed a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

“I learned with sadness and pain of the news of the grave attacks, that precisely today, Easter, brought mourning and pain to churches and other places where people were gathered in Sri Lanka,” Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square to hear his Easter Sunday “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.

“I wish to express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, hit while it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” said Francis, who visited Sri Lanka in 2015.

“I entrust to the Lord those who have tragically died and I pray for the wounded and for all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event,” he said.

Unknown attackers set off at least seven explosives on Easter Sunday morning at three churches and four hotels.

Two of the churches targeted were Catholic and one was an evangelical church.

The first blast hit St. Anthony’s Catholic Shrine in Kochchikade, a district north of the capital Colombo, causing heavy casualties.

Dozens of people died at St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Negombo, another district north of Colombo.

The targeted evangelical church was in Batticaloa in Eastern Province, where more than two dozen people were killed.

The explosions struck within a short period of time, all targeting the faithful as Easter services were beginning.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, said it is “a very, very sad day for all of us.”

“I wish, therefore, to express my deepest sorrow and sympathy to all those innocent families that have lost someone, and also to those who have been injured and rendered destitute,” he continued.

Cardinal Ranjith said, “I condemn – to the utmost of my capacity – this act that has caused so much death and suffering to the people.”

He also called on Sri Lanka’s government to hold “a very impartial, strong inquiry and find out who is responsible behind these acts”.