More than 130 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in a series of explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, police and hospital sources say.
At least seven explosions were reported. Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services. According to authorities, 137 are reported dead folowing the blasts.
The Shangri-La, Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and a fourth hotel, all in Colombo, were also hit.
Easter Sunday is one of the major feasts in the Christian calendar.
No group has yet said it was responsible.
Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.
It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority. It is given primary place in the country’s laws and is singled out in the constitution.
Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.
Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.
St Sebastian’s church in Negombo was severely damaged. Images on social media showed its inside, with a shattered ceiling and blood on the pews. At least 67 people are reported to have died there.
There were heavy casualties too at the site of the first blast in St Anthony’s, a hugely popular shrine in Kochchikade, a district of Colombo.
Hospital sources in Batticaloa said at least 27 people had died there.
A hotel official at the Cinnamon Grand, near the prime minister’s official residence, told AFP the explosion there had ripped through a restaurant, killing at least one person.
A seventh explosion was later reported at a hotel near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, with police sources reporting two deaths.
News is coming in of a possible eighth explosion, in the Colombo district of Dematagoda, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a statement calling for people to remain calm and support the authorities in their investigations.
PM Ranil Wickremesinghe is chairing an emergency meeting. He said: “I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong.”
In the years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, there has been some sporadic violence, with members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties. That led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.
The civil war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, who had fought for 26 years for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils. The war is thought to have killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.
Christians from all over the world are gathering to celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
According to the Scripture, Jesus rose from the dead or came back to life three days after being crucified. It is marked as Jesus’ victory over death. The crucifixion of Jesus is commemorated on Good Friday, which is the Friday right before Easter.
Easter is celebrated as it signifies the rebirth of Jesus. His resurrection symbolizes the eternal life that is granted to all who believe in Him.
Easter is the biggest day of the year for the Church. It is indeed the day we build towards every year through the season of Lent and all the Holy Week services. It is the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Sunday worship services. On this day we celebrate the greatest news ever proclaimed, “Christ is risen”, victory is won.
Orthodox Christians around the world are celebrating Easter Sunday.
While the majority of Christians celebrated Easter on March 27 based on the Gregorian calendar, for Orthodox followers who use the Julian calendar the date fell six weeks later this year.
Orthodox Easter also commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and shares similarities with Western Christian celebrations.
Unique traditions from colorful eggs to palm fronds mark the holiday, which some refer to as Pascha from the Greek transliteration.
The large celebrations and prayers take place across Orthodox churches after the end of Lent to mark the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven.
There are approximately 200 million to 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world, with large followings in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Thousands of people visit Jerusalem every year to take part in Holy Week ceremonies and processions from Palm Sunday until Easter. It is traditional for palm fronds or willow branches to be given out and blessed at church services on Palm Sunday.
In 2017, the Gregorian and Julian calendars align and Easter will fall on April 16 for both Orthodox and Western Christian churches.
Easter Vigil, also called the Great Vigil of Easter or the Paschal Vigil, is a service held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Many Christians observe Easter Sunday a little differently than Catholics do. For lots of churches, the peak celebration is Easter Sunday, maybe even a service at sunrise.
The Great Vigil of Easter, when observed, is the first service of Easter. It is celebrated at a convenient time between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Morning.
The Easter Vigil liturgy is the most beautiful liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church. This walks through the Easter Vigil, and includes the words to the Exsultet.
Although celebrated Holy Saturday evening, it is the dramatic Easter vigil liturgy that marks the beginning of Easter. We are awaiting our master’s return with our lamps full and burning, so that he will find us awake and seat us at his table (cf. Luke 12:35ff). All Catholics should try to attend this beautiful service. The vigil is divided into four parts:
Service of Light,
Liturgy of the Word,
Liturgy of Baptism, and
Liturgy of the Eucharist.
We have been preparing for Easter through forty days of Lent, culminating in the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter on Saturday night. All that waiting and preparation peaks when we gather on Saturday night for a solemn vigil.
In the Catholic Church, Holy Saturday, or the Saturday of Holy Week, is the final day of the Lent and the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday is the final day of the Triduum, the three days during which we commemorate Christ’s Passion.
It is the day when Jesus lay in his tomb after his death, according to Christian belief.
Holy Saturday (from Sabbatum Sanctum, its official liturgical name) is sacred as the day of the Lord’s rest; it has been called the “Second Sabbath” after creation. The day is and should be the most calm and quiet day of the entire Church year, a day broken by no liturgical function.
On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. The altar is left bare, and the sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. Only after the solemn vigil during the night, held in anticipation of the resurrection, does the Easter celebration begin, with a spirit of joy that overflows into the following period of fifty days.
Candles that are lit during Holy Saturday church liturgies symbolize Jesus Christ’s victory over death, as well as the Christian belief in his resurrection. It can also mean spiritual hope and victory.
Activities on Holy Saturday:
Today we remember Christ in the tomb. It is not Easter yet, so it’s not time for celebration. The day is usually spent working on the final preparations for the biggest feast of the Church year. The list of suggested activities is long, but highlights are decorating Easter eggs and attending a special Easter food blessing.
For families with smaller children, you could create a miniature Easter garden, with a tomb. The figure of the risen Christ will be placed in the garden on Easter morning.
Another activity for families is creation of a paschal candle to use at home. [youtube SuW5l0Nn4Ic 650]
Pope Francis led his second Easter Mass and delivered the Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday in front of tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
After leading the ceremony that marks the holiest day in the Christian calendar, Pope Francis delivered his traditional blessing and address.
The pontiff prayed for peace in Syria and Ukraine and “an end to all war and every conflict”.
And he also prayed for those people around the world suffering from hunger, poverty, disease and neglect.
This is the second Easter mass and “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message Pope Francis, 77, has delivered as Pope.
Pope Francis led his second Easter Mass in front of tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square
The avenue leading up to the Vatican was filled with 35,000 flowers donated by the Netherlands.
“Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible,” Pope Francis prayed.
He appealed for more medical attention for those suffering from the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa and also prayed for the protection of the most vulnerable members of society.
Pope Francis asked God to “enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved… will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future”.
“We pray in a particular way for Syria,” he said, expressing the hope that the “defenseless civil population” will be protected from the violence and get the aid they need.
In reference to Syria, Pope Francis urged the international community to “boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue”.
Pope Francis’ message came as Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad marked Easter by visiting the ancient Christian town of Maalula.
In 2014, Easter in the US will fall on Sunday, April 20.
This year, Catholic Easter coincides with the Eastern Orthodox Churches that include Russian, and Greek Orthodox denominations that dominate across Europe.
In the West, Christians follow the Gregorian calendar which includes Roman Catholic, Anglican Communion, Protestant Churches and other denominations.
This year, Catholic Easter coincides with the Eastern Orthodox Churches that include Russian, and Greek Orthodox denominations
Eastern Orthodox Christians follow the Julian calendar.
In the West, Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon.
According to the Merriam Webster encyclopedia, the Paschal Full Moon was introduced in 1892. It falls on the 14th day of a lunar month occurring on or next after March 21 calculated by a fixed set of ecclesiastical calendar rules, without regard to the real moon.
The calculation for the Orthodox Easter is the same, except it’s based on the much older Julian calendar which has its own conventions of calculating equinoxes, the two dates in the year when day and night are of equal length.
In 2015, Western Christianity will celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 5.
In the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Easter Sunday will fall on Sunday April 12.
Pope Francis celebrates his first Easter Sunday since his election, with an open-air Mass in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
The Pope will then deliver an “Urbi et Orbi” address from a balcony of St Peter’s.
Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar.
At an Easter vigil Mass in St Peter’s, Pope Francis appealed to non-believers and lapsed Catholics to “step forward” towards God.
At an Easter vigil Mass in St Peter’s, Pope Francis appealed to non-believers and lapsed Catholics to “step forward” towards God
“Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward,” Pope Francis said.
“He will receive you with open arms.”
At the start of the service, the basilica was kept dark to signify Jesus’ tomb before what Christians believe was his resurrection. Pope Francis and the congregation held candles.
The service was shorter than usual, which the Vatican said was in line with Pope Francis’ preference for shorter Masses.
Pope Francis, formerly Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected on March 13, becoming the first non-European pope for almost 1,300 years.
He replaced Pope Benedict XVI, who held the office for eight years and became the first pontiff in more than 700 years to resign, saying he no longer had the physical strength to continue.
Pope Francis, 76, has already set a new style at the Vatican, reaching out easily to ordinary people and expressing his thoughts in a conversational way that is easy to understand.
He has surprised many of the clerics who work at the Vatican, eating in a communal dining room with other priests and clearly finding much traditional Vatican ceremonial tedious.
Rather than moving into grand papal apartments, Pope Francis has remained in a Vatican guesthouse, where he has been inviting ordinary people to morning Mass.
In the days before Easter, Pope Francis reached out to women and Muslims.
During a Holy Thursday Mass at a youth detention centre he washed and kissed the feet of 12 people, including two girls and two Muslims, and in a Good Friday procession referred to the “friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters” in the Middle East.
After Easter, Pope Francis will have to begin tackling the key issues facing the Church, such as the Vatican bureaucracy, the future of the Vatican bank and the clerical sexual abuse scandal.
Vatican watchers will be keeping a keen eye on new appointments to key positions.