Catholic church in Sri Lanka cancels Sunday services

COLOMBO • Sri Lanka's Catholic church has scrapped plans to resume Sunday services following a "specific threat" against two religious locations after the deadly Easter attacks.

The archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, yesterday said that a "reliable foreign source" had alerted him to possible attacks this weekend.

"The information we have from a reliable foreign source is that attackers are planning to hit a very famous church and a Catholic institution," the Cardinal said in a statement. He did not name the source.

He also said that Catholic schools which were due to re-open after an extended Easter vacation next Monday would now remain shut "until further notice".

The Sri Lankan authorities had had advance warnings from Indian intelligence of the impending Easter attacks in which 257 people died, but police and security forces ignored them.

However, the government said all 10,194 public schools will re-open on Monday amid tight police and military security, with at least one armed guard outside each one.

"We have been assured that all schools will be searched and safe for us to resume the new school term," Education Minister Akila Kariyawasam told reporters.

Last Sunday, a week after the April 21 attacks, all public masses were cancelled and Cardinal Ranjith conducted a private memorial service for the victims that was broadcast live on television.

All political parties also scrapped May 1 rallies amid fears of bomb blasts.

The Easter attacks were blamed on the local National Thowheeth Jama'ath whose leader was among the suicide bombers. The group had pledged an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2019, with the headline 'Catholic church in Sri Lanka cancels Sunday services'. Print Edition | Subscribe