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Australian Catholics have mourned their own losses and the deaths of other passengers on Malaysian Airlines flight 17, including delegates to the 20th International Aids Conference in Melbourne, with memorial Masses and tributes across the country.
Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Prime Minister Tony Abbott attended a Mass of Remembrance and Call for Peace at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral on 20 July at which the Apostolic Administrator of the Sydney Archdiocese, Bishop Peter Comensoli, said: "The downing of MH17 was not an innocent accident; it was the outcome of a trail of human evil."
Western governments have accused pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine of bringing down the plane with a missile.
Students from one of Sydney's leading Catholic girls’ schools, Kincoppal-Rose Bay, were among almost 2000 people who attended the Mass. The Director of Boarding at the school, 77-year-old Sr Philomene Tiernan was one of 38 Australian residents who died when MH17 was brought down over Ukraine last week, killing all 298 people on board.
Hours after the news, students and staff had held a special liturgy to pray for Sr Tiernan, her family and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, of which she had been a former Australian leader. Cardinal George Pell, the former Archbishop of Sydney, remembered the late sister as "a bright spirit and great inspiration to many not only in her school community but also throughout the Sydney Archdiocese.”
The principal of the school, Mrs Hilary Johnston-Croke said of Sr Philomene, who worked at the school for more than 30 years and was on sabbatical visiting England and France: "I heard from Phil on Thursday 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 (foundress of Sr Philomene's congregation) in her caisse at St Francis Xavier Church, which was a very special moment for her."
In Melbourne, Archbishop Philip Wilson said the loss of HIV experts coming to Melbourne for the Aids conference had unleashed a "wave of sadness".
"So many people who were to be engaged in this special work of ministry have had their lives taken away," the Archbishop of Adelaide and Chairman of Caritas Australia told a memorial Mass at the Church of St John the Evangelist in east Melbourne on the day the Aids Conference opened.
Mgr Robert Vitillo, Special Adviser on Health and HIV/Aids and head of the Caritas Internationalis Delegation to the UN in Geneva, was a convenor of the pre-conference for Catholics working in the field called, “Stepping up the Pace; Remembering the Loaves and the Fishes”.
“This tragic event has touched us all deeply," he said. "A number of people who died had committed their lives to improving the health of others as part of the global fight against HIV and Aids.”
About 200 Ukrainian Catholics gathered at their Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in Melbourne as their Eparch (Bishop), Peter Stasiuk, said there was a lot of bewilderment among his community.
"This is a game changer," he told Catholic Communications in Sydney. "How this will change the game I cannot predict. We are praying for peace but fear this may lead to all-out war."
Pope Francis in a statement issued the day after the disaster urging “all parties in the conflict to seek peace and solutions through dialogue, in order to avoid further loss of innocent human lives”.
In Perth, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe told the congregation in St Mary's Cathedral on 20 July that a West Australian victim, Irish-born Mrs Edel Mahady, worked in Good Shepherd Primary School in Kelmscott in his Archdiocese and that she was related to the cathedral's recently retired sacristans, Tom and Angela Mahady.
"As we pray for all those who have lost their lives in the skies over Ukraine, and all those whose lives today are filled with anguish because of their loss, let us also pray with urgency and with faith, that the hard hearts of those responsible for this terrible event might somehow be touched by the wave of mourning and sorrow which has been unleashed," Archbishop Costelloe said.
Above: In Holland, Bishop Jan Hendriks, an auxiliary in Haarlem-Amsterdam, lights 298 candles to represent crash victims before the start of a Mass in Haarlem Cathedral on Sunday. Photo: CNS/United Photos via Reuters