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The Journal Gazette

  • The archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith addresses survivors during a holy mass held to bless victims of Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • A Sri Lankan roman catholic priest prays at the St. Lucia's Cathedral during a holy mass held to bless victims of Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • A Sri Lankan army commando soldier stands guard at the St. Lucia's Cathedral during a holy mass held to bless the victims of Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • Sri Lankan Catholic survivors pray during a holy mass held to bless victims of the Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • Sri Lankan army soldier secure the St. Lucia's cathedral as Catholic nuns attend a holy mass held to bless victims of Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • Sri Lankan police officers stand guard at the entrance to St. Lucia's cathedral during a holy mass held to bless victims of the Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • Sri Lankan police officers stand guard at the entrance to St. Lucia's cathedral during a holy mass held to bless victims of the Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • A survivor of the Easter Sunday attack arrives to attend a holy mass held to bless the victims of the attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • A Sri Lankan Catholic survivor looks skywards during a holy mass held to bless victims of Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • Sri Lankan Catholic nuns push a wheelchair carrying a survivor of the Easter Sunday attack for a holy mass held to bless the victims of the attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 250 people were killed when suicide bombers struck three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter. Masses at churches were canceled for a second week last Sunday and the reopening of schools was postponed after reports warned of possible new attacks. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

  • Sri Lankan army commando soldiers secure the St. Lucia's Cathedral during a holy mass held to bless the victims of Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 11, 2019. In the two Sundays that followed Easter, most churches were closed with armed guards. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Sunday, May 12, 2019 6:50 am

Sri Lanka Catholics hold first Sunday Mass since attacks

Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka held the first regular Sunday Mass since the Easter suicide bombings of churches and hotels killed more than 250 people.

Military forces and police armed with assault rifles patrolled the streets leading to churches and stood guard outside the compounds. Everyone entering was required to produce identity cards and was body-searched.

Volunteers were stationed at the gates of churches to identify parishioners and look for suspicious individuals.

Parking was banned near the churches and officials requested worshippers to bring along only minimum baggage.

Seven suicide bombers struck two Catholic and one Protestant church and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, carried out by a local radicalized Muslim group.

Sunday services were canceled in the two subsequent weekends for fear of more attacks, leaving the faithful to hear Mass via live TV transmission from the Colombo residence of Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith.

Church authorities are also mulling reopening church-run schools on Tuesday if they can be satisfied with security.

President Maithripala Sirisena told the Associated Press last week that "99%" of the remaining suspects in the Easter attacks had been arrested and their explosive materials seized, and it was safe for tourists to return to the Indian Ocean island country.

Police say two previously little-known radical Islamist groups -- National Towheed Jamaat and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim -- conspired in the attacks.

Officials said Zahran Hashim, a vitriolic preacher from the country's east, may have led the attackers and was one of the bombers to die.