Card Ranjith forced to celebrate Sunday Mass live on TV (photos)
by Melani Manel Perera

Catholic and Protestant clerics have banned Mass in churches. Such a step was not taken even during the country’s civil war. Muslim women are not allowed full face covering for security reasons.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - For the first time in their lives, Sri Lankan Catholics watched Mass live on TV, as a result of the ban on church services a week after Easter Sunday's massacres.

Nothing like it has ever happened before, "not even during the terrible war launched by the Tamil Tigers rebels," some youth said.

At 8am, Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, celebrated the liturgy in the archbishop's chapel, which was broadcast on all public and private radios and televisions. At 8.45am, the exact moment when the St Anthony Church in Kochchikade (Colombo) was struck, all of the country’s churches rang the death knell in memory of 253 victims.

Since the attacks, Catholic and other Christian churches have banned liturgical services in churches to avoid the risk of new attacks after those carried out against three churches and three hotels in Colombo.

In some places, Muslim and Buddhist communities offered Christians their places of worship for Sunday celebration. The Buddhist temple in Gampah, in the western province, was one of them.

Yesterday Card Ranjith concelebrated the service with two auxiliary bishops, several priests, nuns and a few faithful.

During the homily, the cardinal said that large-scale deaths and destruction caused by “human failure” may prompt some people to question the existence of God and his love for them. However, God loves everyone, including those who died. He created man in his own image and likeness and breathed his own life into him.

“In the name of God, people cannot destroy other human beings. If we do that, it is contrary to God’s wishes," the Archbishop said. “All of us are unique,” he added. “God has created us with a unique face, unique talents, unique weaknesses as well as strengths.”

“God loves everybody profoundly; therefore, every human person is a treasure. There is nothing as important as human life. [ . . .] Last Sunday’s mass murder was nothing but an insult to humanity.”

Just after the homily, President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the leader of the opposition, former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, joined Catholics in the ceremony of lighting the candle to the statues of Saint Anthony and Saint Sebastian, the patron saints of the two Catholic churches that were attacked. The third church to be attacked was Zion Church, an evangelical church located in Batticaloa.

A ban on face coverings in public came into effect today, including the veil some Muslim women wear to cover their faces. President Sirisena took the decision yesterday for security reasons under the state of emergency. After some resistance, the Muslim community accepted the ban.