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Sri Lankan cardinal warns against ‘sacristy Catholics,’ urges faithful to ‘fight for justice’

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo urged Catholics in Sri Lanka to “fight for justice” and not become “sacristy Catholics.”

“We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the cardinal said at the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya in Colombo earlier this month.

The prelate, who has been vocal in his criticism of government policies, said the Catholic Church needs mature Christians who are fit for leadership.

“We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics,” said Cardinal Ranjith, adding that the Church should not be “bishop-priest centered.”

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

The cardinal also urged bishops and priests not to be afraid to hand over responsibilities to the laity.

“We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise,” he said.

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Earlier this month, Cardinal Ranjith, welcomed the ruling of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court that found former Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena and four other top officials responsible for failing to prevent the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed 279 people.

“Based on this verdict we expect this case to be taken forward,” the cardinal said in a statement to the media.

“Justice for the victims will only happen when the entire truth comes out. This decision is just a milestone in that journey,” said the prelate.

The court ruling was issued on January 12 following a lawsuit filed by 13 families and local Church leaders.

“This is a beginning, and it is a very happy beginning, and we are very happy that the learned judges gave us such hope for a future for this country, which is a much-needed hope for the developing of our nation,” said Cardinal Ranjith.

The island nation’s worst terror attack since the end of its ethnic civil war saw coordinated suicide blasts on hotels and Catholic churches, which also killed up to 45 foreign nationals and wounded over 500 people.

The seven-judge bench ruled that Sirisena had been negligent in not taking measures to thwart the attack, despite solid intelligence warnings two weeks earlier.

They ordered Sirisena, 71, to pay 100 million rupees (US$273,000) to family members of victims who brought the civil case before the court.

Sri Lanka’s former police, intelligence and defense chiefs were also held responsible and instructed to compensate victims’ relatives.

It is the first time that a head of state in Sri Lanka has been held responsible for failing to prevent a terror attack.

Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church has regularly criticized the government’s investigation into the Easter Sunday bombings and petitioned the United Nations for an international probe.

A local jihadist group was blamed for the attack but authorities failed to identify the masterminds.

Sri Lanka suffered through countless plane hijackings, bomb blasts and civilian massacres during its bruising, decades-long civil war.

The conflict ended when government troops crushed the separatist Tamil Tigers guerrilla force during a no-holds-barred offensive in 2009 during which up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the campaign’s final weeks. – with a report from Agence France Presse

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