Sri Lanka’s Catholics have forgiven the bombers who struck their churches last Easter, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has said.

Speaking at an Easter Sunday Mass April 12, the archbishop of Colombo said: “Last year some misguided youths attacked us and we as humans could have given a human and selfish response. But we meditated on Christ's teachings and loved them, forgave them and had pity on them.”

The cardinal, who livestreamed the Mass from his residence due to the coronavirus crisis, added: “We did not hate them and return them the violence. Resurrection is the complete rejection of selfishness.”

Nine suicide bombers targeted two Catholic churches, one evangelical church and three hotels on April 19, 2019, killing an estimated 259 people and injuring more than 500. The bombers belonged to an Islamist group known as the National Thowheeth Jama’ath and were all Sri Lankan citizens.

Cardinal Ranjith, 72, has repeatedly accused the authorities of failing to give a clear account of how the terrorists were able to carry out the attack despite alleged intelligence that attacks were imminent.

In March, he said he would lead public protests if the government failed to produce a credible report on the bombings.

The faithful had hoped to attend Easter services at the bombed churches, but government measures to combat COVID-19 meant they had to celebrate Easter at home.

According to Vatican News, Masses were celebrated behind closed doors at the two Catholic churches attacked by the bombers: the Shrine of St. Anthony in the capital, Colombo, and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo. A total of more than 150 people were killed at the two sites.

Catholic leaders are planning to hold a private ceremony marking the anniversary on April 21, reported Vatican News.

More than 217 people have contracted COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and seven have died as of April 11, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.