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Do not fear to worship after Mar Emmanuel attack, but respond with prayer, says Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP

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Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

Updated 6.06pm 16 April

“The stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and Father Isaac Royel is shocking and has caused distress to many in the community,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said in a statement following the attack on the Assyrian Orthodox clergyman in Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley on 15 April.

Houses of prayer have traditionally been places of peace and solace, refuge and sanctuary and so the video footage of the attack upon a religious leader during a religious service inside a church has been especially confronting.

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The images of the violence that subsequently occurred outside the church are also confronting.

We have seen these types of events in other countries but, up until now, Australia has been largely free from this type of blatant violence in and around places of worship.

Every person in this country, be they bishop or priest, rabbi or imam, minister or congregant, should be able to worship in safety, without fear that they might be subject to acts of violence while gathering in prayer.

I urge the faithful to not respond to these events with fear, avoiding places of worship because they are worried about further attacks, nor with anger, engaging in acts of reprisal or revenge. The best response to violence and fear is prayer and peace.

On behalf of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, and in solidarity with other religious leaders, I offer prayerful support to Bishop Emmanuel, Father Royel and all others affected. May the God of peace reign in our land.

“This affects us all”

Bishop Robert Rabbat eparch of Australia’s Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy told The Catholic Weekly that many people in Sydney’s highly multicultural community have come from places where innocent people including priests were killed in churches, “which is always hard to comprehend.”

“Especially from Iraq, but also Syria, Lebanon and other places where they were hurt and were happy to come here where it is safe to practice their faith with their leaders,” he said the day following the attack.

“So at a time when the Christians are either still celebrating the Easter season or journeying towards Easter and when the Muslims have just celebrated Eid al-Fitr, this truly is heartbreaking.”

The bishop said people in his own community were expressing worry about their future and whether their houses of prayer would remain oases of peace in Australia.

“We all want serenity, this is a challenge and cross we have to carry and have to remember Our Lord repeated unceasingly ‘My peace I give you’,” he tells them.

“We also have to try to understand the people who were praying with Mar Mari Emmanuel or waiting to listen to his spiritual talk.

“When you see someone who is dear to you or who you look up to suddenly being attacked, unfortunately sometimes the emotions make you behave in a way you usually would not, especially as some people may have witnessed something overseas and the images come back to mind.”

The events affected everyone in the state but “thanks to God the religious leaders were able to come together quickly with our secular leaders and appeal for calmness and unity” Bishop Rabbat added.

“No doubt all the leaders who were present at that meeting last night were heartbroken and we were in a situation of a race against time to find the right words, to bring calm.

“This takes prayer, it takes calm and above all the grace of God that we all need in order to be able to be truthful to our mission as leaders.”

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