Sri Lanka Catholics celebrate mass at restored church after bombings

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COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan Catholics celebrated a saint’s feast inside a bombed church on Thursday, resuming worship at St. Anthony’s Shrine after Easter attacks by Islamist militants killed more than 250 people on the island.

The April 21 attacks, claimed by militant group Islamic State, targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, shocking the country and shattering a decade of relative peace after the end of a 25-year civil war.

Hundreds of worshippers, including survivors and relatives of the victims, gathered at the shrine in the capital, Colombo, for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, called for peace on the multi-ethnic island that has also been shaken by anti-Muslim riots carried out in retribution for the bombings.

“Do not make this land become a land of blood,” Ranjith said in his sermon at the restored white-painted church.

A mass was held on Wednesday evening for the first time since the church was reconsecrated.

Authorities say the threat of more Islamist militant attacks has been contained and security services have dismantled most of the network linked to the Easter Sunday bombings.

Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Darren Schuettler

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