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Prayers flow for four Maronite Catholic children killed in Sydney, mother forgives ‘in her heart’

Prayer support: Almost 2000 people gather at a Rosary vigil organised by the Maronite community at the site where the Abdallah children died. Residents from the surrounding streets joined the crowd in Bettington Road, Oatlands, to pray a Rosary for the souls of the children and for the family and friends. And Antony (inset top-left), Angelina (bottom-left), Sienna Abdallah (top-right) and Veronique Sakr (bottom-right). Main photo: Adrian Middeldorp

A MOTHER wipes the tears off her rosary beads as she kneels at the scene where her children were killed.

Her husband is holding back tears as he comes to terms with losing three children at once.

“Please just make sure you love your loved ones, kids especially, because you don’t know when …,” he tells reporters.

Leila and Daniel Abdallah, Maronite Catholics from the western Sydney parish of Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral, lost three of their six children in an horrific crash just streets from their home in Oatlands.

In the early evening of February 1, Antony Abdallah, 13, his sisters Angelina, 12, and Sienna, 11, alongside their cousin, Veronique Sakr, 11, were walking to the shops to buy ice cream when they were struck by a motor vehicle.

They were walking with three other children, who were admitted to hospital, including the sister of the three siblings killed, and two cousins, one of whom was in a coma at the time of publication.

The driver of the vehicle that hit the children was a 29-year-old male.

He was charged with 20 offences, including four counts of manslaughter, four counts of dangerous driving occasioning death from driving under influence, four counts of dangerous driving occasioning death, and driving with a high-range blood alcohol reading.

News footage taken the following day at the scene where the children were struck showed Mrs Abdallah holding a set of rosary beads while making the sign of the cross.

She prayed the Rosary in front of a line of flowers, placed in honour of her children, and four votive candles bearing the images of St Charbel Makhlouf, St Anthony of Padua, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph.

Mr Abdallah told reporters he felt numb, that his time as a father to three of his children was over.

“I always, say full-time father, part-time worker – they were my priority, and now, they’re gone,” he said.

He described his son as a “very handsome boy” who loved basketball, his daughter Angelina was his “MLH – my little helper” and Sienna was “my little diva, little actress”.

“They’ve gone to a better place,” he said. 

Visibly struck with grief, the father also made a plea to drivers: “All I just want to say is please, drivers, be careful.

“These kids were just walking, innocently, enjoying each other’s company. And this morning I woke up, I’ve lost three kids.”

While on her way to visit the scene where her three children were killed, Mrs Abdallah calmly told reporters she could not hate the driver of the car that struck her children.

“Right now I can’t hate him,” she said. 

“I think in my heart I forgive him. 

“But I want the court to be fair.

“But I’m not going to hate him – it’s not who we are, and it’s not what our religion tell us. 

“God knows what is fair because this is God’s will.”

Mrs Abdallah said she was heartbroken and felt like she was “walking the stations of cross”.

But she also praised her children’s faith, saying she and her husband focused “on their spiritual side more than anything”.

“We tried to teach them to pray the Rosary, to read their Bible, to live their faith, to be good people in life, and to share God’s face through them,” she said.

The grieving mother said the day of the incident, her son Antony was at church praying the Rosary.

“So I know he’s in a safe place,” she said.

Her other children also had a devout faith.

“Angelina had a dream of St Charbel and he told her that he loves her, and my family is blessed,” Mrs Abdallah said. “But I didn’t think they were going to take me away from them too soon.”

The death of the four children has had a particularly devastating impact on the Maronite Catholic community.

Two families involved in the crash were parishioners at Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral, and the children attended the parish’s children’s group on Saturdays.

Parish dean Fr Tony Sarkis released a statement on Facebook on behalf of the family, asking God to grant the four children eternal rest and peace.

“We have been supporting the family since we heard the tragic news last night through our prayers and Masses firstly and through our ongoing support by their side,” Fr Sarkis said.

“This heartbreaking event has touched the hearts of all the community and we ask everyone to continue to pray for the three families entrusting them to the glory of the Resurrection and eternal life.”

Fr Sarkis said the children’s funeral details had not been confirmed by the time of publication.

Following their deaths, the Maronite community organised a Rosary vigil at the site where the children died.

Almost 2000 people, including residents from the surrounding streets, filled the usually busy thoroughfare on Bettington Road, Oatlands, to pray a Rosary for the souls of the children killed.

The Abdallah family were there, and at the end of the Rosary offered a simple “thank you” to their supporters.

Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, leader of the Australian Maronite community, also wrote an emotional prayer for the grieving families.

“May our Lord and his Holy Mother, whose heart was pierced at the death of her Son, console your hearts at this time of great sadness,” Bishop Tarabay said in a prayer on Facebook.

“And may your beautiful little children pray for you from the heavenly dwellings of light and help you find peace and healing.”

Friends of the Abdallah family awaiting the relics of St Therese of Lisieux and Sts Zelie and Louis Martin at St Michael’s Church, in Belfield, Sydney, on February 2 prayed a special Rosary for the four children.

Many parishioners are reportedly close friends of the Abdallah family. 

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher paid tribute to the family on Facebook, inviting the entire Catholic community to bring their prayers for the two families before the visiting saints at St Michael’s.

“We ask that through the intercession of Saints Therese, Louis and Zelie that Our Lord may reach out to them in their distress at the loss of their children,” Archbishop Fisher said.

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