The archbishop of Colombo announced on Thursday that Sunday Mass will be canceled in his district this weekend due to ongoing security concerns. Catholic schools will also remain closed until further notice, while public schools in Sri Lanka will reopen on Monday with armed security.
Services were also canceled last weekend in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed 257 people. The archbishop, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, instead delivered a homily to clerical and government leaders from his home that was broadcast nationwide.
AFP reported a “specific threat” has been leveled against two religious locations and Ranjith indicated on Thursday he was warned about 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,” he said.
Ranjith accepted a security detail for himself but refused the offer of a bulletproof limousine from the Sri Lankan government.
“I am not afraid. I don’t need bullet-proof vehicles to go about. The Lord is my protector. But I want security for my people, and for the country,” he said, suggesting he was not completely satisfied with the official response to the Easter attacks.
“I want to state that we may not be able to keep people under control in the absence of a stronger security program. We can’t forever give them false promises and keep them calm,” Ranjith warned, advising the Sri Lankan government to consider itself on a “war footing” until the terrorist threat has been controlled.
The archbishop had earlier floated the idea of resuming a small number of Masses this weekend and slowly increasing the number “depending on how the situation develops.”
The Associated Press noted that Muslims were advised to stay home instead of attending Friday prayers last week, but Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka are encouraging them to return to their mosques for this Friday’s services. The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka has requested additional security at the mosques.
AFP included the detail that Muslim clerics refused to perform burial ceremonies for ten terrorists killed during a shootout with security forces last week, several of them dead by their own hands with suicide bombs. The police were obliged to bury the remains.