Father Kevin Hennessey, what’s the mood like at World Youth Day, given this terrible attack in France?
Shock and there’s a quietness among the young people. All of them realise the gravity and the sadness of the situation. So there’s a lot of prayer and reflection.
We’ve been to Auschwitz today so we were already reflective of how terrible human beings can be to one another. But the reality of this – with a priest in a parish situation – is something our young people can relate to and feel very shocked and saddened about.
This event was meant to be a great celebration. The start of it has now been marred by this event. Do you think the celebratory atmosphere will be able to return?
I think so. We’re all aware of the struggle of life especially at the moment with so much sadness and the awful violence. But I thought Archbishop Dominique [Archbishop of Rouen and Primate of Normandy where the attack happened] spoke very well, he said we want to make a civilisation of love, our young people are the way forward, we don’t want them to react to violence with violence, the only weapon we have is prayer and the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. That’s what we look to. We want to be a people of hope.
There are tens of thousands here today who are happy and joyful. We’re a people of hope. That’s what will keep us going.
We’re a Catholic community who want to stand together with other Christians and be a people of hope. We try to be a people of thanksgiving that we have so much good in our lives and we want to share that with others.
One of our young people did say 'what right do people have to take the lives of others? They have no right to do that'. I thought that was a very profound insight from such a young person. And we feel that. However we stand at the foot of the cross and we believe Christ is with us and that God will give us the strength and give that community in France the strength. It’s not us who are affected just now its that community in France with Fr Jack just saying his weekday mass is something we all relate to and its just absolutely horrific.
People have always been aware of the threat when you get on a plane, tube or bus. But you never think of that when you go to church, when you go to Mass. Is that something that will be in the back of your mind now on a Sunday?
I think it will have to be. I think we need a new awareness of being sensible and cautious and alert. But you can’t live in fear.
But how can you even come to terms with all this to begin with? I think we need a moment of reflection. Who would have thought the life of an 83 year old priest would be taken in such an awful way? In the house of God? Our weekday mass is an oasis of peace, prayer and the love of God. And we will not give in. We will continue to share that love even with people who want to hurt us.
Father Kevin Hennessey was speaking to Antony Bushfield on Premier Christian Radio's 'The News Hour'