Cairns diocese’s Augustinian Father Robert Greenup and Deacon Ralph Madigan attended the funeral of the eight children killed in Cairns recently. Fr Greenup wrote the following reflection.
THE murder of eight children in Cairns, just before the celebration of Christmas, shocked the whole country and deeply affected Indigenous communities throughout the diocese.
Unlike other recent tragedies, there could be no suggestion of a religious or political motivation.
It was simply a domestic tragedy of unimaginable, incomprehensible proportions.
The funeral of the children was held at the Convention Centre in Cairns on Saturday, January 10, with several Christian ministers jointly conducting the service.
An estimated 5000 people filled the centre, but the huge space was dominated by the eight white-painted coffins, of different sizes, all neatly lined up in a row.
At the beginning of the service the Prime Minister (Tony Abbott), the Premier (Campbell Newman) and the Mayor of Cairns (Bob Manning) each laid a wreath in front of the coffins.
Then songs were sung, and many, many bewildered and heartfelt words and prayers were said.
One of the speakers remarked that the children’s deaths were shrouded in silence.
No one heard a cry for help, either before or during their deaths.
No one knew of their desperate situation.
No one knew of the danger they were in.
“Nobody heard their cries,” he said.
Since the day of that dreadful tragedy there has been much crying and heartache, and the grief at their loss still weighs heavily upon the community.
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamenting and weeping bitterly:
it is Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)
After the silence and the weeping there is consolation to be found in the faith and the hope that, even in the face of such tragedy, our God will wipe away the tears from every cheek and make all things whole, all things new again.