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Melbourne’s Catholic archbishop calls for prayer following attack in CBD

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, has called for prayer following an incident in the city’s centre on Friday afternoon in which one man was stabbed to death and two others injured after a car was set alight.

The attack took place after a man identified as 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali crashed a vehicle loaded with gas bottles on Bourke Street before getting out and stabbing three people. He was shot by police at the scene and died later in hospital.

Comensoli said in a statement issued on Sunday that Friday’s “evil act was entirely contrary to the Way of Jesus, contrary to all true religion, and contrary to human dignity”.

“The way of Jesus Christ is to build bridges of mutual respect and civil friendship among people and communities,” he said. “The way of aggression and violence is never the answer. Let us commit ourselves instead to the way of dialogue and reconciliation.”

He called for people to acknowledge the “lights of goodness” that shone out on Friday afternoon including the actions of the man killed – Sisto Malaspina, part-owner of Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar – who “went to the aid of a neighbour even if that gesture of charity was countered with deadly intent” and the goodness of people who “courageously sought to protect others”.

He called for prayer for all those affected including police and emergency services.

“May those affected by Friday’s tragic events be healed, physically and emotionally, and may Jesus Christ accompany us all with solace and strength during the days ahead.”

On Saturday, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to the bravery of police, professionalism of emergency services and the willingness of bystanders to “stand up”.

But he said he also had to “call out radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life”.

“I am the first to protect religious freedom in this country, but it also means I must be the first to call out religious extremism,” he said. “Religious extremism takes many forms around the world, and no religion is immune from it. That is the lesson of history, and sadly modern history as well.”

“But here in Australia we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism, in this country, is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam.”

Morrison said there was a “special responsibility” on religious leaders to ensure “dangerous teachings and ideologies do not take root”.

“They must be proactive, they must be alert and they must call this out, in their communities and more broadly for what it is.”



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