Bombed St. Anthony’s Shrine in Sri Lanka feels closeness of Universal Church

by Robin Gomes | Vatican News

St. Anthony's Shrine Kochikade in Colombo, Sri Lanka, undergoing repairs after the April 21, 2019 bombing. (Vatican News)

The world was shocked and outraged to hear about a string of coordinated suicide bomb attacks on three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the holiest day for Christians. The bombings, claimed by the so-called Islamic State, killed more than 250 people and injured some 500.

One of the targets of the April 21 carnage was the Catholic St. Anthony’s Shrine Kochikade, in the capital Colombo. Amadeo Lomonaco of Vatican News visited the popular shrine ahead of the nation marking a month since the attacks. He spoke to the Rector of St. Anthony’s Shrine, Father Jude Raj, who had a narrow escape that fateful day during the 8:45 a.m. Mass on Easter Sunday.

The priest said they never gave up their faith and continue to pray and celebrate Mass inside the shrine saying, “Our God is not a god of revenge. He is the God of love.”

Father Raj said that the entire Sri Lankan community has come together, irrespective of religion, caste, and language. Catholics are showing the power of prayer, especially the rosary and the Mass, and they don’t need any other weapon.

St. Anthony’s Shrine maintains a soup kitchen that feeds some 200 people daily, and it also has a museum and relics. The shrine maintains a close link with Sri Lanka’s Catholic community of Italy that is home to the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua where the 13th-century saint breathed his last.

Father Raj pointed out that Catholics in Sri Lanka have not been abandoned by the Universal Church that is praying for them. Many dioceses across the world have also expressed their closeness with Sri Lankans.