‘Violence is death’: Archbishop preaches peace and hope at Easter

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne has used his Easter message to condemn violence, particularly against women and girls, as crowds flocked back to Easter Sunday services.

In his homily to the 11am Easter Sunday Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Peter Comensoli said: “Whether spiritual, psychological, social, sexual, physical, verbal – no matter what form it takes – violence of any kind is death.

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Easter Sunday.Credit:Luis Ascui

“Sadly, this is a reality known in a particularly insidious way by too many women and girls today, as we individually have lost sight of a resurrected life in society.”

On a beautiful autumn day, worshippers travelled from across Melbourne to experience in person, one of the year’s holiest services, which in 2020 could only be watched online or on TV, due to COVID-19 bans on crowds.

They used phones to scan QR codes on entry for contact tracing, and the usual handshakes with strangers that goes with the words “peace be with you” were omitted from the Mass.

A Catholic Church spokeswoman said while in past years as many as 3000 people had packed into the bluestone cathedral for Easter Mass, on Sunday there were fewer than 800 worshippers.

Less than a third of the usual crowd filled St Patrick’s Cathedral on Easter Sunday. Credit:Luis Ascui

People spaced themselves out over pews, with some choosing to stand throughout the service.

A soft yellow light streamed through the cathedral windows and mingled with smoke from incense; the sounds of bells and the choir’s singing rang out through the building.

Archbishop Comensoli’s homily echoed recent anti-violence campaigns.

“Whether accepted or hidden; whether recognised or dismissed; whether maximalised or minimalised – the path of violence is darkness for our humanity, and nothing else,” he said.

An Easter worshipper lights a candle at St Patrick’s CathedralCredit:Luis Ascui

Three of Jesus’s female followers, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had witnessed the violence of his crucifixion and seen “the way violent power corrupts our humanity”.

They had come, out of love, to anoint Jesus’ body then, when they found it gone, spread the good news of the resurrection.

Archbishop Comensoli said we needed “the Marys and the Salomes, the trustworthy witnesses who stand up to the violent darkness” and show us a way to walk towards light, peace and hope of new life.

“We need their encouragement, built on their courage and faithfulness. We need their hope, built on simple acts of care and tenderness. We need their acts of love, so that we might see that our acting from love is not wasted.”

Frida and Markus Barth, with children Josefine, 2, and Carla, 5, outside St Patrick’s Cathedral. Credit:Luis Ascui

Among the multicultural congregation on Sunday were German immigrants Markus and Frida Barth, of Hampton, and their daughters, Carla, 5, and Josefine, 2.

The couple, originally from Stuttgart, wanted to pass on the traditions of Easter to their children because their own childhoods had involved going to church.

“I think it tells them a lot of interesting stories, that you can also translate for your life,” Mr Barth said.

Croatian immigrant Kathy Nalis, 77, came from Dandenong North with her daughter, Maryanne, 53, granddaughter Julia, 27, and other relatives and friends because it was a special occasion.

Ms Nalis said it felt “absolutely wonderful” to be here.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said.

“It’s a special place. It’s a big celebration, especially for us Catholics.

“This is the place to be, on a day like today.”

Archbishop Comensoli delivered last year’s Easter homily to an empty cathedral.Credit:Penny Stephens

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