A blasphemous assault on humanity was how the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, characterised atrocities in Paris which left 132 dead and 350 injured, speaking last night at a special Mass of remembrance at St Mary’s Cathedral.
The cathedral swelled with people who had come to pray for peace and healing in the wake of several deadly attacks around the world, including in Beirut and Baghdad; among them the Premier Mike Baird, Governor David Hurley and French Consul General Nicolas Croizer.
Luminous blue, white and red greeted worshippers as they entered the cathedral.
Well attended by French-speakers, the night was replete with the French language – several musical refrains, the Gospel and all of the prayers of petition; the anthems of Australia and France beginning the night’s proceedings.
“They were people just like us, doing the most innocent of things,” Archbishop Fisher said in his homily.
“Then evil struck and the beautiful city of Paris was defaced by violence and gore … This was an attack on innocent human beings. It was assault, also, on humanity, on every aspect of human flourishing …
“It was an assault, also, on religion: for to attack everything good, everything sacred, is to attack the God who gives us such things.
“To add insult to injury, to add blasphemy to insult, Daesh claim to do such things in God’s name.”
Archbishop Fisher also remembered the 43 killed and 250 injured by other Islamic State attacks in Beirut, and the at least 18 people killed by Islamic State bombings in Baghdad, one, the detonation of a suicide bomber at a funeral.
“The merchants of terror may care little for life and liberty, family and friendship, truth and beauty, faith and goodness. But we will never repudiate these things: indeed we recommit to them this night.”
He said that the people of the Church had to “continue to build places of concord”, recalling the witness of a patron saint of France, St Martin of Tours, a fourth century Roman cavalry officer who renounced arms to embrace poverty and peace.
He is the saint after whom the St Martin’s Day Armistice is named.
“We believers must insist that to call on the name of God is to call on the transcendent source of peace, reconciliation and goodness – like Martin of Tour, like Jesus who beatified the gentle, merciful, pure-hearted and peacemakers.
“Whatever our faith or politics or national affinities, we must all speak out in favour of peace and love and life, and condemn vicious and lethal parodies of religion, politics or culture.
“With Paul I am certain that ‘nothing can really come between us and the love of God’ – ‘even if we are anxious, persecuted, in want’, indeed ‘even if we are attacked. For these are merely the trials through which we triumph, by the power of Him who loved us,’ of Him who is love incarnate. And ‘blessed’, He says, ‘are the peacemakers, they shall be called God’s children.”
The evenings lights were made possible by Catholic Cemeteries & Crematoria.
The full text of the archbishop’s homily is available here.