at ‘peace’ Mass
Muslims at peace Mass
Archbishop Pell with Islamic Council leaders Dawood Goddard (centre) and Gabr Elgafi
Two leaders of Sydney’s Islamic community joined Catholics in prayer at the Ash Wednedsday ‘peace’ Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Their action was repeated in Parliament House, in schools and elsewhere after the Supreme Islamic Council of NSW urged Muslims to pray and fast on Ash Wednesday in solidarity with Catholics and to heed Pope John Paul II’s call to offer special prayers for peace in the Middle East on that day.
The council chairman, Gabr Elgafi, who was at St Mary’s, said: “We would love to see all Australians - people of all faiths and none - respond to the Pope’s call to fast and pray together in the same way they rallied behind the peace marches.
“We hope that fasting together will be an appropriate and important act of communion and shared belief between our two faiths at this time.
“The will between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia is to live peacefully together and we need to play a pro-active role in furthering our understanding of each other.”
The council’s secretary, Dawood Goddard, said that they were surprised by the level of positive response their suggestion received from some in the Muslim community.
It is something the council will encourage each year, he said.
At Parliament House, Sydney, participants in the World Conference on Religion and Peace spent time in silent prayer.
And at St Jerome Primary School, Punchbowl, and Holy Spirit College, Lakemba, Muslim representatives joined students in special prayer services for peace.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Pell, touched on the Pope’s request - that it be a special day of fasting and prayer, not just for ourselves, but also for peace in the Middle East and against war and terrorism - in his Ash Wednesday homily at the cathedral. “Today we make this added dimension to our commitment because of our deep faith that prayer can make a difference to our world,” he said.
“And the Supreme Islamic Council of NSW, the collective of all Muslim organisations in our state, has called on Muslims throughout our community to join our fast.”
The Ash Wednesday Mass is also traditionally the occasion to promote Project Compassion, the major fundraising appeal for Caritas Australia during the six weeks of Lent.
Archbishop Pell said that contributing to the appeal is one of the “most tangible expressions” of a person’s attempt at deeper conversion during the 40 days of Lent.
He urged Catholics to give generously to the appeal, which has as its theme Freedom from Slavery.
Dr Pell spoke of a “resurgence of the evil practice” of slavery. “More than 27 million people live in some form of slavery today, a number that is claimed to be greater than the number of slaves during the 400 years of Western involvement in African slave trade,” he said.
Caritas Australia’s national director, Jack de Groot, said at the end of the Mass that it is the duty and privilege of Caritas to stand with those most at risk in times of conflict.
“Today it is the women, children and elderly who make up over 80 per cent of the casualties of war,” he said.
“This human tragedy is the business of Caritas.”