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An Indian-origin Catholic priest was stabbed in the neck at a church in Melbourne by a man who said that he is unqualified to recite Mass as he is Indian, prompting the Indian consulate to take up the matter with the police. A man with a knife approached Tomy Kalathoor Mathew, 48, in the church foyer moments before the Italian-language Mass at St Matthew’s Parish in Fawkner on Sunday. Reacting to the incident, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that Indian Consulate officials met Father Mathew in the hospital and are in touch with the police.
“The Police have arrested the attacker and charged him with attempt to murder. Our Consulate is in touch with the police and will keep us informed of the progress of the case,” she added. It is believed that the accused told the priest that because he is Indian, he must be a Hindu or a Muslim and is therefore not qualified to say Mass, local media reported.
“There was some shouting and a lot of movement at the back of the church and then I saw Father Tommy approaching me. He waved and asked me if I could look at his neck because he said, ‘I’ve just been stabbed’,” said Melina, one of the parishioners. A 72-year-old man from Fawkner was arrested and charged with intentionally and recklessly causing injury. He was granted bail to appear in Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on June 13.
“At this stage, we believe the incident is isolated. There’s nothing to suggest he’s a danger to anyone else,” Detective Senior Constable Rhiannon Norton told reporters. Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman Shane Healy described the incident as “appalling”.
“People should never be treated like this. This fellow is doing wonderful work for his parishioners and this is really a blight on the great work that many Catholic priests are doing,” he said. Father Mathew suffered minor upper-body injuries and is stable at The Northern Hospital. Swaraj said, “Father Mathew was immediately taken to the hospital. The accused had a problem with Father Mathew presiding over the church.”