An Australian appeal has been established to support the Catholic community in Sri Lanka, still reeling from the Easter Sunday bombings that killed 253 people and wounded hundreds.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), whose mission is to support the Christian faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need, established the appeal on Friday. Bernard Toutounji, national director of Aid to the Church in Need in Australia, said local donations will support ACN’s projects most in need in Sri Lanka.
“As we move from Easter Sunday into the Easter Season we want to continue to keep watch with the Sri Lankan people, which is one of the largest ethnic groups in Australia,” Mr Toutounji said.
He said material and spiritual support for the Sri Lankan people can help to “ensure the faith is kept alive and that the love of Christ is never extinguished due to persecution and suffering”.
A number of Masses and other services of prayer and remembrance have been held across Australia in the week since the Easter bombings.
At a Mass at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Friday, thousands of people held flickering candles and raised their illuminated phones as they prayed for the victims of what has been described as one of Sri Lanka’s worst days.
Sri Lankan Consul General Lal Raj Wickrematunga told the crowd the community will get through with “compassion and love”.
“After 10 years of peace, Sri Lanka had to face one of its worst days,” he said.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Immigration Minister David Coleman and deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek attended the Mass.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP called for an end to hatred and violence during the Mass.
“It’s clear the Easter Sunday bombers hated Christians,” he told the gathering.
Sri Lankan chaplain Fr Chaminda Wanigasena said Friday’s gathering was a “very sombre occasion” after a “moment of crisis”.
Masses for the victims of the Sri Lanka attacks have also been held in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth in recent days.