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Maronite Catholic children killed in Oatlands tragedy remembered for their devout faith at funeral

Raised up: Large photos of the three Abdallah children are carried through the funeral crowd. Photos: Giovanni Portelli

THREE innocent siblings who were killed on the footpath of a quiet suburban street in western Sydney have been remembered as children who put God first in their young lives.

Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah, three of six children to Maronite Catholics Daniel and Leila Abdallah, were walking with their cousins to the shops in their home suburb of Oatlands on February 1 when they were hit by a car.

The three siblings died at the scene, along with their cousin Veronique Sakr.

Three other children, including a younger sibling and two cousins, were taken to hospital, where one child, Charbel Kassas, was placed in an induced coma with significant spinal and brain injuries.

Thousands of mourners paid their respects to the Abdallah children and to comfort their grieving parents at a moving funeral led by Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay at Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral, in the Adballah family’s parish, on Monday, February 10. 

The parents and one daughter sat before photos of Antony, Angelina and Sienna and three white coffins.

After receiving Communion, their mother kissed each of their photos.

In his homily, former parish priest Monsignor Shora Maree shared eye-watering stories about Antony, Angelina and Sienna, illustrating their deep love for God and their Catholic faith.

On Antony’s last day on earth, he asked his dad to make a detour to St Mary’s Cathedral, to pray at Mass ahead of his basketball game, which he dedicated to Kobe Bryant and Bryant’s daughter Gianna, who were both killed in a helicopter crash just days before in the United States.

Young Sienna asked her parents to take her to feed the homeless at a soup kitchen run by Doonside church Team Jesus for her eighth birthday and, when they brought out her cake, she gave her slice to one of the homeless.

Angelina was her daddy’s “MLH – my little helper”, a second mum to her siblings and, according to her Year 6 teacher, a girl who cared for everyone.

“Their prayers are already helping Danny and Leila,” Msgr Maree said.

He said since their baptism, the children had been “clothed with Christ, robed with Christ”, citing the concluding prayer that forms part of the sacrament of baptism in the Maronite rite.

The prayer says when the baptised child dies, the “visible garment of their body” will be laid aside for another, a “new and imperishable garment” of Jesus Christ.

“They are alive with Christ,” he said.

In God’s arms: The funeral of Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah was held at Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral last Monday. Photos: Giovanni Portelli

Speaking to the parents, Msgr Maree said they should not throw away their grief, disbelief or struggle to come to terms with the loss of their children, but lean on three things – who, what with, and when.

“Who” – the person with the answers to why their children were so quickly taken away from them – was Jesus Christ, and by practising faith, love and sacrifice – the “what with” – today, right now, they would find healing and peace within this tragedy.

Msgr Maree said the Abdallah parents were already a great witness of faith to the world.

“Danny and Leila, we have seen in you most inspirational example and testimony to this truth, the power of God’s love,” he said. “Danny, you said Jesus is the rock of your family, your words. 

“Leila, you said the words of forgiveness, stunned the world. Of course, that doesn’t come just from something human, that’s come from divine. 

“You know the pain of our Lady and, like her, you would’ve shared Jesus’ prayer, ‘Father, forgive them’. 

“Wow – what an inspiration to all of us.”

In a family statement to the press, Mr and Mrs Abdallah said it would require “endless words of despair” to express their deep sorrow at the loss of their three beautiful children.

“This is an unimaginable tragedy; unfathomable beyond all description,” the pair said.

“Our children are our reason for living.

“Bringing them up in accordance with the ways of God, teaching them to love, affording them every opportunity and nurturing them into positive and impacting young men and women was, and is our life’s purpose.”

The parents said in order to continue being “effective parents” to their “remaining three angels” they chose to forgive the driver of the car that killed their children.

“We have decided, in our hearts to forgive him – for the sake of our children and more so for Christ’s sake,” they said.

They said they were leaning on their faith in Jesus Christ “to help us through this difficult time”.

“Each day that passes is a day closer to the day we are reunited with our angels,” they said.

“We will look forward to this moment, not backwards at yesterday’s pain.”

The funeral service of Veronique Sakr was held on Tuesday (February 11) at the Santa Sabina College chapel in Strathfield.

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