There was plenty of incense, holy icons, prayers and Marian hymns when Sydney’s Melkite Catholic community came out in force to protest the proposed abortion law currently under debate at NSW Parliament House.
Almost 200 Melkite Catholics and friends led by the leader of the Melkite Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand Bishop Robert Rabbat participated in a prayer service at St Mary’s Cathedral on 7 August. They gathered for the event called a Paraclesis to ask the help of the Mother of God in their fight to stand for all of the unborn and their mothers across the state.
In doing so they brought their unique presence to the ongoing pro-life protests outside NSW Parliament House since the introduction of an extreme abortion bill on 1 August.
Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said that it was wonderful to see “strong support” from the Eastern churches in the campaign against the extreme abortion legislation which is expected to be decided in the Parliament’s lower house today.
The prayer service which began at 7.30pm was followed by a solemn procession up Macquarie Street to NSW Parliament, where the crowd prayed the rosary and chanted and sang hymns to the Most Holy Theotokos (Mother of God). The event was organised by the community’s youth group iMelkite and attended by many young adults.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Catholics have quietly gathered around the clock to pray for the unborn, women, and the state’s politicians in the Our Lady chapel of the city’s cathedral since 5 August.
NSW bishops voice opposition
Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long OFM conv and Bathurst Bishop Michael McKenna have added their voices to other NSW bishops in official statements protesting the proposed law. “It is not enough to argue that this legislation is simply about ‘decriminalising abortion’,” said Bishop Long on 7 August.
“What’s at stake is far more complex and goes to the heart of a healthy society. As human beings, we all have a responsibility to care for each other. Pope Francis reminds us bluntly: ‘It is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem’.
“Whilst we affirm the sacredness of all life, the Church as a community of faith, hope and love stands by pregnant women to offer them support. That is why, closely linked to protection of the unborn is the ongoing care of women who are pregnant, especially those in difficult personal circumstances.
“Our legislators and community need to provide more practical care and compassion to women facing these decisions.”
Bishop McKenna wrote on 31 July to “salute those Members of Parliament who are resisting this attempt” and encouraged Catholics to support them. “Those who propose the legislation are no doubt sincere in their arguments,” he said.
“However, as so often in this debate, someone is forgotten.”
“That is the human being: unborn, but human, who has no rights when her or his life or death is being decided.
Also forgotten are those medical professionals who would conscientiously oppose such procedures, from whom the law could withdraw protection. And thoroughly forgotten are the mothers faced with difficult circumstances in their pregnancies, for whom, instead of genuine care, only the bleak option of a termination is offered.
“Whatever the outcome of the political debate, we cannot be silent in the face of what is being attempted.”
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