Malaysia Airlines tragedy ‘the outcome of a trail of human evil’

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Students embrace after  Mass at St Mary's Cathedral to honour those lost in the MH17 airliner tragedy. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Kincoppal-Rose Bay students embrace after a Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral to honour the 298 lives lost in the MH17 airliner tragedy, including teacher and former boarding mistress Sr Philomene Tiernan. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 last week was the outcome of a trail of human evil, according to Bishop Peter Comensoli, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese of Sydney.

Bishop Comensoli told a grieving congregation of more than 2000 people – including Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove – at St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday that the shooting down of MH17 was not an innocent accident.

“In the targeting and destruction of flight MH17, and the loss of 298 innocent lives, the shocking effects of our fallen humanity have once again confronted the world,” Bishop Comensoli said.

“Yet, evil is inevitably exposed in the light of day. It is a harrowing image to see fields of crops in Eastern Ukraine strewn with human remains and wreckage.”

The Mass of remembrance was held two days after the airliner was shot down en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, killing all 298 people on board.

A Sacred Heart nun, Sr Philomene Tiernan, was among the 38 Australian residents and citizens killed.

A teacher and former boarding mistress of Kincoppal-Rose Bay, School of the Sacred Heart, she has been remembered as a loved staff member and friend of the college.

In a statement to the college community, principal Hilary Johnston-Croke said the death of Sr Philomene just days after she attended a retreat in France came “as an enormous shock”.

“I heard from Phil yesterday morning and she told me that she had left Joigny, where she had been attending a retreat in Paris. While there, she saw St Madeleine Sophie Barat in her caisse at St Francis Xavier Church, which was a very special moment for her.”

Students and staff attended a liturgy at the college on Friday afternoon and the Cathedral Mass on Sunday to pay tribute to Sr Philomene, a former provincial of the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart.

“We are devastated by the loss of such a wonderfully kind, wise and compassionate woman who was greatly loved by us all,” Mrs Johnston-Croke said.

Sr Philomene “contributed greatly to our community and she touched the lives of all at KRB in such a positive and meaningful way”.

The college planned to hold a celebration of her life in coming weeks.

Broken Bay diocesan administrator Fr Vince Casey said the diocese was enriched by Sr Philomene’s work during her time there as chancellor.

“Her quiet manner and strength of character were greatly valued and loved,” he said in a statement distributed to parishes.

In Western Australia, the Good Shepherd primary school and parish of Kelmscott, outside Perth, are mourning the loss of Edel Mahady.

The Irish-born school registrar who emigrated to Australia as a newlywed was returning to Perth after visiting her ailing mother in Dublin.

Her husband Dereck and adult children Conor and Ciara have remembered Mrs Mahady as a “tiger mother” who “took care of people”.

“If there was an Irish version of a ‘tiger mother’ Edel was it,” the family said in a statement.

“Edel’s fierce love of her family was evident in her support of her siblings through constant communication and regular visits to care for her elderly mother.

“Edel’s personality and quality of her work positively affected generations of teachers and children in the Kelmscott area.”

Also among the passengers were six delegates due to attend the International AIDS conference in Melbourne this week.

It was preceded by a Catholic conference on HIV/AIDS co-hosted by Catholic agencies including Caritas Australia and Caritas Internationalis.

In a statement, the International AIDS Society (IAS) expressed its “sincere sadness” at the death of “a number of colleagues and friends”.

“At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy,” said a statement from Michael Kessler of the IAS.

Fr Simon Ckuj, chaplain to Sydney’s Ukrainian Catholic community, led a prayer vigil at St Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lidcombe, on 19 July.

In his homily, he acknowledged the disaster had affected people deeply and “may have even shaken our faith”.

“But we must never fall to the temptation of revenge,” he said.

It is less than a month since the church was desecrated with racial slurs and swastikas including messages that translated to ‘Burn in hell for the sins of Poroshenko’, the new Ukrainian president, and ‘Burn in hell for the sins of Bandera’, a Ukrainian nationalist leader who died in 1959.

In Sunday’s homily, Bishop Comensoli said evil will always have its way when vigilance and transparency are allowed to wane.

“These are matters we can all attend to with the aid of God’s grace and a simple trust in him who created us, so that our own lives may become examples for others to see.”

He invited people to pray “for the gentle and eternal repose” of those killed.

“We also pray for the conversion of heart of the perpetrators of this terrible evil, that they and all who are tempted to hide under the darkness of human corruption, will now walk on a path that upholds the dignity of every person.”