By Paul Dobbyn
“I TOO am Charlie … the Catholic Church has to be Charlie.”
These are the words of Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Paris, which left nine workers dead at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo dead on January 7.
Two police officers, one a Muslim, as well as a maintenance worker were also killed.
“As a Catholic bishop, I seek to proclaim the liberty, equality and fraternity of the Gospel,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“I will oppose any totalitarian ideology with all my strength.
“The massacre in Paris shows the true face of the totalitarian ideology that has attached itself to Islam like a cancer.
“It is the face of evil.
“Therefore, faced with the Paris massacre, I too am Charlie.
“The Church has often been lampooned by Charlie Hebdo.
“But faced with this monstrosity, the Church also has to be Charlie.”
Archbishop Coleridge said in some sense he was “not always Charlie”.
“The searing satire of Charlie Hebdo is a peculiarly French genre, related to the ironic view of the world that is typically Gallic,” he said.
“It is seriously irreverent, even iconoclastic, but often amusing.
“I and others may not like it in every instance.
“So I am not always Charlie.
“But I cannot deny the French the right to be themselves in this distinctive way, because it is one of their ways of defending the liberty, equality and fraternity which totalitarian ideology will never accept because they see it as a mortal threat.”
Archbishop Coleridge’s comments came as political, religious, community leaders and vast public gatherings condemned the attack by Islamic militants.
Nine Charlie Hebdo’s staff, including journalists and cartoonists, were killed in an attack on the office of the satirical magazine.
A 42-year-old Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merebat, was one of two policemen killed in a subsequent shootout.
The gunmen, identified as brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, also injured 11 other people, four seriously.
The brothers were killed in a shootout with French police northeast of Paris on January 9.
In Sydney’s Martin Place a defiant rendition of the French national anthem La Marseillaise concluded a vigil attended by more than 1000 people on January 8.
Many held placards reading “Je suis Charlie”, or “I am Charlie”.
The vigil came less than a month after Martin Place was covered in floral tributes to the victims of the Sydney siege.
A minute’s silence was held across France at noon that day, and the Martin Place vigil at 10pm was timed to correspond.
Four leading French imams and the Holy See issued a joint statement denouncing the Paris massacre, warning the world was a dangerous place without freedom of expression, but urging the media to be respectful of religion.
The Muslim spiritual leaders were visiting Vatican City along with French Catholic bishops.
The Holy See’s office for interreligious dialogue said the four joined Pope Francis in condemning the cruelty of the attack and urging all believers to show solidarity with the victims.
They stressed that dialogue among different faiths is the only way to eliminate prejudice.
Pope Francis also held Mass that day in honor of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
“We pray, in this Mass, for the victims of this cruelty – so many of them – and we pray also for the perpetrators of such cruelty, that the Lord might change their heart,” he said.
Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest sites, condemned the assault on Charlie Hebdo as a “cowardly terrorist attack which is incompatible with Islam”.