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Saturday, February 25, 2017
Killing at Christmas Mass casts shadow over Cardinal's arrival in Sri Lanka
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¬†Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was forced to reschedule his visit to Batticaloa amidst mounting tension in the region following the murder at Midnight Mass of a Tamil opposition politician in the coast town 190 miles east of the capital Colombo. Joseph Parajasingham, who was 71, was gunned down shortly after taking Communion by six men in front of Batticaloa's bishop, who was celebrating the Mass. Church sources in Colombo who have spoken to the bishop said he was "deeply shocked" and "upset" by the killing, the first to occur in a church in Sri Lanka. The politician's wife, who was also shot, is critically ill. Seven others were injured. The six men who opened fire escaped. The motive for the killing of Parajasingham - a Catholic moderate with the main Tamil nationalist party, known as the "political wing" of the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers - remains unclear. Both the LTTE and the Government blame each other. The killing has led to a three-day "hartal" or stoppage in the town, which has forced Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor to reschedule his visit. Batticaloa is the focus of tsunami relief operations in the island funded by the London-based aid agency CAFOD, which has arranged the Cardinal's visit. The Archbishop of Westminster is being accompanied by CAFOD's director, Chris Bain, his private secretary, Fr Mark O'Toole, and his director for public affairs, Austen Ivereigh. Dr Ivereigh said the Cardinal was "very concerned" about the murder, which overshadowed his arrival in the Sri Lankan capital at 3am on Boxing Day. The killing is being seen as more evidence that the peace process is under strain on the island following recent elections which saw national Buddhist parties ≠ which oppose a Tamil homeland in the north ≠ increase their share of power. Skirmishes in the north shortly before Christmas left 13 naval personnel dead. In an interview for Sri Lankan television today before lunching with the apostolic nuncio to Sri Lanka, the Cardinal spoke of his concern at the violence. He told MTV: "I know that everyone here wants peace on this lovely island, and that the Government and the Church and everyone else have that at their heart. My prayers at this time will be for the peace process, that it will grow and develop, and that in good time and in as short a time as possible there will be peace, justice and toleration in Sri Lanka." The Archbishop of Colombo, Oswald Gomis, said: "The killing which took place in the cathedral church of Batticaloa is certainly a heinous crime. We condemn it totally. For us, the destruction of any human life is something horrible and we deplore that type of killing. But this being committed in a very sacred place on a very sacred day is certainly abominable. So while we condemn this act we appeal, even at this late hour, to all parties concerned, that we have to respect human life, we have to respect the dignity of human beings and we have to respect the rights of people. It is still not too late for us to sit down and work out a negotiated solution to our ethnic problem. If we continue our killings, we will end in total disaster. This is not only for the 665 people, not only for the Tamil people, it is for all other communities ≠ the Muslims, and others in this country. If we are to rise up as a nation, and if we are to bring peace and prosperity to our people, we have to remember that there is only the democratic way of discussion and dialogue, and I hope that the New Year will bring us to that situation where people where people will begin to appreciate each other, trust each other, and then learn to love each other."
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