Neighbouring Muslim and Christian communities grieve together

On Sunday afternoon the Catholic bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn, led a service in Sacred Heart Church that was attended by a large number of men and women from the Al-Masjid Al-Jamie mosque.

The church was packed to overflowing with many dozens more outside and across the road outside the mosque.

The mosque and the church face each other across Vermont St in the inner city suburb of Ponsonby.

For many years the two worshipping communities have enjoyed a warm and friendly relationship.

On certain significant Muslim holy days, the mosque community uses the parish’s parking facilities.

College students in uniform from St Mary’s and St Paul’s Colleges were present and helped lead the liturgy, as did seminarians from Holy Cross College.

In his welcome, Bishop Pat read the letter from Pope Francis who expressed his sadness, solidarity and prayer.

Psalms showing many commonalities between the Muslim and Christian faiths were prayed, and the prayer of St Francis, ‘Make me a channel of your peace’ was sung.

The two Muslim speakers gave moving addresses.

The family of one of them immigrated to Auckland in 1907 and he regards himself as a true Kiwi.

Sadness was mixed with humour in his speech. Referring to the two fully armed policemen who were on duty outside the church, he expressed gratitude to the Catholics for allowing them to park in church grounds and, turning to Bishop Pat, said “You don’t need to show mercy when my Muslim brothers block your parking – you can call the police and have them towed”.

He said that Muslims considered Mary the most important of all women, and her son, Jesus, a great prophet. Any Muslim who denies Jesus, he said, is not a true Muslim.

The second Muslim speaker, who had lost dear friends in the massacre, spoke of violence and hatred.  He mentioned a case where an imam was giving hate speeches in Auckland – the mosque was closed and the imam removed.

He reiterated that the violent act should be answered with love and support.

A collection was taken to be presented to the Muslim community for the support of the Christchurch Muslim families.

After the service, to the singing of Mo Maria, Bishop Pat, the Muslim community and the whole congregation of many denominations and faiths processed with flowers across the road to the mosque and were warmly welcomed inside, where there were speeches of welcome, gratitude and solidarity in faith.


Supplied: Lyndsay Freer. Spokesperson for the Catholic diocese of Auckland

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