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'Controlled explosion' near St. Anthony's church as Sri Lanka remains on high alert

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 22, 2019 / 08:03 am (CNA).- Police in Sri Lanka have detonated a suspicious package near St. Anthony’s church in Colombo on Easter Monday.

Local media reported scenes of panic and confusion April 22, as crowds fled the area after what has been described as a “small explosion.” Local police later confirmed the blast was the controlled destruction of a suspect item found in a nearby van.

The controlled detonation was carried out but local authorities at approximately 3:30pm local time Monday afternoon. It took place in the immediate area of St. Anthony’s Catholic church and national shrine, which was at the center of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.

 

 

Small explosion outside St Anthony’s church right now. People fleeing the scene pic.twitter.com/GjadgTwoZ5

— michael safi (@safimichael) April 22, 2019  



 

The controlled explosion follows the defusing of what the Times of London called a "large pipe bomb" near Colombo airport overnight, and authorities remain on high alert over the possibility of further attacks.

According to some reports, as many as 24 arrests have been made, and investigations are ongoing.

The Easter attacks, which have claimed more than 290 lives and injured a further 500, targeted several churches including St. Anthony’s, as well as three hotels, a zoo, and a private residence.

World leaders have offered statements of condolence and solidarity to the island nation as government officials have appealed for unity in the face of the terrorist action.

Details of the attacks have continued to emerge, with police confirming that several of the explosions were the result of suicide bombers.

While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the coordinated series of attacks, Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe indicated on Monday that local intelligence and security services had been circulating warnings of an impending attack on churches 10 days before Easter.

Senior police officers have been reported saying the warnings referred to the domestic Islamic terror group National Thowheeth Jama’ath.

Wickremesinghe said this information was not shared with him or his cabinet, and that he was investigating why additional precautions did not appear to have been taken. The prime minister also said that the immediate priority was to arrest those responsible.

While the prime minister confirmed that “so far the names that have come up [as suspects] are local”, cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said on Monday that the government was considering the role of overseas terrorist groups.

“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country. There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded,” Senaratne said.

Concerns have previously been raised in Sri Lanka about a potential spike in terrorist violence following the return of Islamist radicals to the country in the aftermath of the collapse of Islamic State.

As security services and police continue their investigations, Pope Francis renewed his prayers for the victims and appealed for international support.

Speaking from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace on Monday, the pope condemned the “inhuman” terrorist attacks shortly before leading the Regina Coeli prayers.

“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary,” the pope said.

I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable.”

Continuing Easter celebrations, pope again prays for Sri Lanka

On Easter Monday, Pope Francis led thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in praying for the hundreds of people who died or were injured in bomb blasts the previous day in Sri Lanka.

Porn restrictions further delayed in UK, now scheduled for July launch

London, England, Apr 22, 2019 / 06:34 am (CNA).- The United Kingdom has once again delayed the launch of its constraints on virtual porn. The online age verification program is now scheduled to launch mid-summer.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock signed a commencement order for the Digital Economy Act in 2017 as a means to curb pornography access by those under 18.

After two years of development and numerous delays, the program is now scheduled to be released on July 15. A few parts of the program have been updated since the project was originally expected to launch on April 1.

To view online pornography, internet users will need to confirm their age by entering information from a driver’s license, credit card, or passport. If users do not wish to input their personal information, they may purchase a special ID card, available at thousands of retail shops across the nation for under £10.

For a website to be monitored, more than a third of the site must be dedicated to pornography, ruling out platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, which are known to have small pockets of pornography. Non-commercial pornographic sites will also be exempt.
Government officials say they hope social media companies will make an effort to protect children from encountering pornographic material.

“We know that pornography is available on some social media platforms and we expect those platforms to do a lot more to create a safer environment for children,” a Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport spokesman told the BBC.

“If we do not see action then we do not rule out legislating in the future to force companies to take responsibility for protecting vulnerable users from the potentially harmful content that they host,” the spokesman said.

Originally, websites that failed to follow the age verification rules were expected to face a nearly $330,000 fine, but this will not be enforced because of the difficulty enforcing payment from porn companies overseas. Rather, the government said a threat to block noncompliant websites should be sufficient to ensure conformity, the BBC reported.

In March, Matt Fradd, author of The Porn Myth and creator of the new 21-day porn detox STRIVE, voiced support for increased restrictions surrounding pornography.

“If it’s something as simple as age verification, I’m all for it,” he told CNA. “It just sounds like we are expecting the same thing of people online that we already expect of them offline.”

Among the available age verification services is AgeID, built by MindGeek, which operates and owns several common pornographic sites.

Some critics of the new UK policy say it violates the privacy of pornography users.

“Data leaks could be disastrous. And they will be the government's own fault,” said Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group, according to the BBC.

The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the age verification is a valuable first step, but that other measures need to be taken alongside it.

“The NSPCC is calling for social networks to be required by law to give under-18s safe accounts with extra protections built in, so that children are kept as safe online as they are in the real world,” read a statement from the organization, according to BirminghamLive.

Children’s access to online pornography has been identified as a significant problem: A 2016 study by internet security company Bitdefender found that about 1 in 10 visitors to porn video sites is under age 10.

Fight the New Drug, an organization that works to educate on the harmful effects of pornography, has highlighted numerous studies showing the negative impact of pornography on underage users, including the creation of addictions, changes in sexual taste, and physical impact on the brain.

“Just more broadly, I would say pornography perverts a child’s understanding of human intimacy and sexual life, which is a very beautiful thing,” Fradd stressed.

“It’s as pernicious as sex is beautiful and human intimacy is worthwhile. Since those two things are beautiful and worthwhile, the corruption of it [in regards to] a child is all together something despicable and horrid.”
 

USCCB president decries terrorist bombings of Sri Lanka churches, hotels

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops termed as "a great evil" the Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka targeting the country's minority Christian community as worshippers packed three churches.

At Easter the stones of sin, despair, are rolled away, pope says at vigil

As individuals and as a church, it can be tempting to dwell on mistakes, failures and sins that block the fullness of life, but Easter is the proclamation that the Lord is victorious and his love will triumph, Pope Francis said.

Jesuit Father James Schall, philosopher, author and professor, dies at 91

Jesuit Fr. James Schall, who retired in 2012 after a long tenure as a professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University in Washington, died April 17. He was 91.

Pope Francis: The resurrection is the most shocking event in human history

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2019 / 05:05 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Monday that the resurrection of Christ is the most shocking event in human history.

“What was humanly unthinkable happened,” Pope Francis said April 22. “‘Christ, my hope, is risen!’ And in Him we too are resurrected, passing from death to life, from the slavery of sin to the freedom of love.”

The pope spoke from the window of the Vatican Apostolic Palace before leading those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the traditional Easter prayer, the Regina Coeli.

“After the rites of the Easter Triduum, which made us relive the mystery of death and resurrection of our Lord, now with the eyes of faith we contemplate him risen and alive,” he said.

Pope Francis said “the risen Jesus walks beside us. He manifests himself to those who invoke and love him. First of all in prayer, but also in simple joys lived with faith and gratitude.”

The pope pointed to the important role that women played in announcing Christ’s resurrection.

“It is women who are the first to meet the Risen One and bring the announcement that he is alive,” Pope Francis said.

“All the Gospels highlight the role of women, Mary Magdalene and the others, as the first witnesses of the resurrection,” he said.

Pope Francis said that the words Jesus addressed to the women must also resound in our lives today, “Do not be afraid; go and announce …”

“We ask the Virgin Mary to allow us to receive full peace and serenity, gifts from the Risen One, to share with our brothers, especially those who need comfort and hope the most,” Pope Francis said.

“Let us allow ourselves, therefore, to reach out from the consoling message of Easter and wrap ourselves in its glorious light, which dissipates the darkness of fear and sadness,” he said.

The pope again expressed his spiritual closeness with the people of Sri Lanka, where explosions in Catholic churches killed more than 200 people on Easter morning.

Pope Francis condemned the acts of terrorism and said that the Sri Lankan people continue to be in his prayers.

“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary. I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” Pope Francis said.

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