By Jamie O’Brien, with Catholic News Service
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has on Sunday 17 March, prayed with special intentions for the victims, their families and friends of the New Zealand terrorist attack.
Celebrating the 11am Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral and in a statement released shortly after, Archbishop Costelloe said the horrific events which took place in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday 15 March 2019, have shocked all Australians.
“Such senseless acts of violence do nothing but bring great suffering to innocent people and inflict deep wounds on the fabric of society,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“On behalf of the Catholic community of Perth, I offer my sincere sympathy to all those whose relatives and friends lost their lives in this vicious attack,” he said.
The shootings took place at or near the Al Noor Mosque, where 41 people were killed, and at the Linwood Mosque, where seven were killed. The final number (at Wednesday 20 March) of those killed now stands at 50.
The terror attack started at around 1.40 pm local time March 15, sparking a massive mobilisation by police.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush, announced at 9 pm that a man in his late 20s had been charged with murder and would appear in the Christchurch District Court the next day.
Archbishop Costelloe continued by saying that the Perth Catholic community joins with the Muslim community here in Perth, “who with us are children of the one God and therefore our brothers and sisters, in entrusting those who died to the all-merciful God.”
“We pray for those who have been wounded in body or in spirit that they may find healing and hope. May God grant us all the gift of peace for which we all long – and may we be bearers of that peace to each other,” Archbishop Costelloe concluded.
Below is the special prayer Archbishop Costelloe proclaimed at Mass.
O almighty and merciful God, Lord of the universe and of history. All that You have created is good and your compassion for the sins of humankind knows no limits. We come to You today to ask You to restore peace to the world and its people, to keep far away from it the hatred and despair which give rise to terror. Give trust and a readiness to forgive to the hearts of your creatures.
O Giver of life, we pray to You for our Muslim brothers and sisters who have died as victims of brutal attacks in Christchurch. Wipe away their pain and tears before your throne of glory.
O Jesus, Prince of Peace, we pray to You for the ones who have been wounded in these acts of inhuman violence. Heal their bodies and hearts; console them with Your strength.
Holy Spirit Consoler, visit the families of the victims. Wrap them in the mantle of Your divine mercy.
Touch the hearts of those who inflict terror, violence and division so that they may turn from evil actions to the way of peace and respect for every human being, regardless of religion or origin.
O God, Eternal Father, in Your mercy hear our prayer which we raise up to You. We turn to You with great hope, full of trust in Your infinite Mercy. Grant us your peace. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Some three-and-a-half hours after the attacks began, the New Zealand bishops released a message, addressed to the nation’s Muslim community, via social media.
“We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims at mosques in Christchurch,” the bishops wrote.
“We are profoundly aware of the positive relationships we have with Islamic people in this land, and we are particularly horrified that this has happened at a place and time of prayer.
“We are deeply saddened that people have been killed and injured, and our hearts go out to them, their families and wider community. We wish you to be aware of our solidarity with you in the face of such violence.”
The bishops signed off their message “Peace, Salaam.”
This is the second major tragedy involving significant loss of life in Christchurch in the last decade. On 22 February 2011, an earthquake struck the city, killing 185 people. The Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament suffered severe damage.
Five Catholic high schools and about a dozen elementary schools in Christchurch city were among many schools that went into lockdown mid-afternoon as news of the terror attacks spread.
Children and staff were unable to leave the schools until 5.30 pm, when enough police personnel had been deployed to ensure a safe passage home.
Speaking shortly after the attack, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, said it is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack.
She continued by saying that the thoughts and prayers of the nation were with “those who have been impacted today.”
“Christchurch was their home,” Mrs Ardern said.
“For many, this may not have been the place they were born, in fact for many, New Zealand was their choice. The place they actively came to and committed to. The place they were raising their families. Where they were parts of communities that they loved and who loved them in return. It was a place that many came to for its safety. A place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion,” Mrs Ardern said.
“For those of you who are watching at home tonight and questioning how this could have happened here.
“We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbor for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things.”
Mosques across the country closed on Friday at the urgings of police. Vigils sprang up throughout New Zealand as people gathered to mourn and grieve.