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Wollongong bishop postpones same-sex marriage talk following Orlando nightclub shooting

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People gather at a vigil in Sydney on 13 June in solidarity for the victims of the Orlando, Florida, gay night club mass shooting. Photo: CNS/Dan Himbrechts via Reuters
People gather at a vigil in Sydney on 13 June in solidarity for the victims of the Orlando, Florida, gay night club mass shooting. Photo: CNS/Dan Himbrechts via Reuters

The Bishop of Wollongong has postponed tonight’s talk against same-sex marriage by the Australian Family Association following Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and will instead attend a vigil hosted by LGBTQI group Unity Wollongong.

Bishop Peter Ingham today released a statement condemning the violent attack on the Pulse nightclub which left 49 dead, and postponing the planned talk.

“While concerns remain about the implications of changing the definition of civil marriage, I believe that, in the interests of compassion and sensitivity to all who are mourning the tragic events in Orlando, this conversation would be better suited for another time, and therefore tonight’s presentation has been postponed.”

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Bishop Ingham said he had accepted an invitation from Unity Wollongong to join a vigil outside the gates of St Therese primary school, West Wollongong.

The school hall had been the planned venue of the AFA presentation, which drew the ire of some school parents when the event was advertised last week.

Some labelled the event “highly offensive” and “extremely bigoted”.

After postponing the AFA presentation, Bishop Ingham organised for this evening’s vigil to be held inside the school grounds.

“After consultation with the parish priest, Fr David O’Brien, we have offered for the vigil to be held inside the gates of St Therese to ensure a safe event,” the statement said.

“I will be attending tonight’s vigil and I am calling on those who were planning to attend the AFA presentation also to join me in peace and solidarity.”

Bishop Ingham said the primary call to action was “to stand together as the Illawarra community in solidarity against violence”.

“I join Pope Francis today and the entire Catholic community in expressing my horror and condemnation of the recent attack in Orlando, USA, which the Vatican has aptly described as ‘homicidal folly and senseless hatred’.

The bishop called for prayers for victims of the shooting and their families.

“Pope Francis has asked that we join in prayer and compassion for the families of the victims and all the injured.

“Every human being is unique, irreplaceable, created in God’s image and loved by God. We as a global Catholic Church community also know what it is to lose members of our community to hateful violence.

“We must stand in prayerful solidarity with victims and all who are mourning the tragic and senseless loss of human life.”

The Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, also joined the call for prayer.

“Sadly the horror and the pain, the turmoil and confusion will continue for many days and I ask all Catholics to pray for the victims, their families and friends.

“All individuals should have the freedom to gather in places of their choosing without the risk of violence which is so often the result of hatred and ignorance.

“The people in that club were victims of violence and terror. The shooting rampage by one man was a brutal assault on the dignity of human life.

“I join Pope Francis in saying the attack has prompted the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation.”

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