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By Serafina Silaitoga

SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 20, 1999 – Fiji Times)---A priest was stabbed in the neck yesterday as shocked parishioners looked on.

Father Kieran Maloney staggered and fell as his attacker walked out of the St. Pius Church at Raiwaqa and fled up the street.

Worshippers gave chase through the Suva suburb and caught the man believed to be in his 20s.

Late yesterday Fr. Maloney was in the hospital after doctors stitched the wound in his neck.

Witnesses said the attacker joined a queue in the church as the priest offered Holy Communion.

When he stood before Fr. Kaloney the man took a knife from his right pocket and stabbed the priest.

Parish chairman Rafaele Roqica said the attacker was from a Catholic family and sat in church during the service.

"When he came in, he sat at the back," Mr. Roqica said.

"A few minutes before communion was given, he moved from the back and went to sit in the front row.

"That's when everything began."

Raiwaqa Parish priest Father Gerald McNicholas was at home when the incident happened.

"This is really shocking and quite dangerous," he said.

"There is no place safe now and you cannot trust anybody."

Fr. McNicholas said the man was at a Christmas party held for the elderly at the parish hall on Saturday.

"He was sitting in the hall and drinking grog with other parishioners."

Parishioners described the man as quiet and reserved.

Vicar-General Father Beniamino Kaloudau said the incident should be a lesson to Raiwaqa parishioners.

"So many times, we go to church but forget to attend the needs of those around us," he said.

"Let's not condemn the boy but instead learn from what has happened and know the needs of those around us.

"Maybe the boy wanted to talk to someone about his problems and no one was ever there to help him out."

Fr. Beni said in many communities, the rebellious youths are always left out.

"Jesus came for everybody and this boy is part of it. My words may be hard but it's a fact."

Police spokeswoman Sergeant Sera Bernard said police were still investigating. She would not give details.


EDITORIAL COMMENT Fiji Times December 20, 1999


THE stabbing of a priest as he said mass for his parishioners yesterday will send shockwaves through the Catholic community.

It will also shock all Christians and people of other religions.

Any attack on a holy person is distasteful.

When the attack is made in a place of worship it becomes even more abhorrent.

Perhaps it is fortunate that Father Kieran Maloney was stabbed by a parishioner.

For if the attack was made by a person of a different faith, retribution would have been swift.

And in Raiwaqa an area which is known for its volatility vengeance would have been violent.

In recent years the number of attacks on places of worship have increased.

Arsonists have torched Hindu temples or removed offerings placed by devotees.

Vandals have smashed statues in these temples, purporting to carry out the will of their God.

Two weeks ago robbers broke in to a Roman Catholic church in the capital and stole several items.

These ugly crimes appear to have graduated to a new, disturbing phase.

Thankfully there have been few attacks on priests in recent history.

But yesterday's stabbing shows there are people who have no respect for religion.

They think nothing of desecrating a place of worship by spilling the blood of a harmless priest.

The Roman Catholic Church's reaction to the incident was interesting.

Vicar-General Father Beniamino Kalodau said the stabbing was a lesson to the parishioners of Raiwaqa.

Many would have expected tender words exhorting church members to practice Christian principles, forgive the attacker and pray for peace.

Instead Fr. Kaloudau was scathing.

He said parishioners should spend more time caring for the needy.

And he warned that they should not go to church for the sake of appearances.

There are many parishioners who have genuine needs or are hurt emotionally and spiritually.

Yet these needs are neglected because people attend services or prayer meetings for the sake of being seen and considered holy.

Why attend religious gatherings if you cannot reach out and help the people around you?

Fr. Kaloudau's message should be heeded not only by the Raiwaqa Parish but everybody around the country.

If people do not care for their neighbors, love and tolerance will die.

That would be a crime.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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