By Paul Dobbyn
THE priests of Cairns diocese are among local leaders delivering a message of support as the community struggles to deal with the impact of the recent deaths of eight children in Manoora.
A funeral service for the children, aged between two and 14 found dead at a Murray Street house on December 19, was to be held at the Cairns Convention Centre on January 10.
Up to 3000 people were expected to attend.
Northern Beaches parish priest Fr Neil Muir said Masses continued to be offered “in prayerful support” throughout the diocese for the victims and their families and friends.
“Some of the relatives are part of the Catholic Church here and I spoke with several of them at Masses on the Northern Beaches,” he said.
“This is a tragedy which stretches across all denominations.”
Fr Muir said the Church in Cairns had also offered various forms of practical support.
“I know Bishop (James) Foley offered St Monica’s Cathedral for the funeral service, but in the end the event became too massive to be accommodated there,” he said.
“I also know the bishop visited Murray Street to support neighbours around the house where the children were found.
“I also understand the Mercy Sisters from the Seville Conference Centre offered accommodation which people from elsewhere attending the funeral have taken up.”
Cairns diocese’s Board of Justice and Care member Fr Karel Duivenvoorden has been liaising with Cairns Centacare to ensure the diocese’s priests have a unified message to deliver in their homilies.
Service executive director Helga Biro said Centacare was among local agencies offering counselling and other services to anyone needing support.
“I’ve also sent Father Karel several messages to pass on to the diocese’s priests for use in their homilies,” she said.
“They are among leaders who can help community members care and look out for each other in this difficult time.”
Cairns Police Acting Superintendent Rhys Newton said it was vital the community reached out for help from various agencies if required.
“There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of life and there are many support services available to help people cope in times of need,” he said.