In his first major public act as the new Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher told the congregation present for a memorial service Tuesday that “hell has touched us,” adding that “the heart of our city is broken by the deaths of two innocent hostages.”
During the service on Tuesday at Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fisher paid tribute to Tori Johnson, 34, and Katrina Dawson, 38, who died along with Man Haron Monis, the Iranian gunman who took over the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s central business district.
The Archbishop said that Tori Johnson’s heroism “led to the eventual freedom” of other hostages, and he praised the sacrifice of Katrina Dawson, the lawyer who reportedly died shielding a pregnant friend from gunfire. According to reports, Johnson was killed after trying to snatch Monis’ gun.
“These heroes,” Fisher said, “were willing to lay down their lives so others might live, imitating the sacrifice of Christ, who said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.”
“There is an alternative to violence and its recriminations,” Archbishop Fisher told those gathered.
During the siege, several of the hostages were forced to hold up a black Islamic banner at the cafe’s window, and Monis demanded delivery of an ISIS flag and a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
More than 2,000 people were present at the memorial service, including senior members of the federal and New South Wales governments.
Tori Johnson’s parents released a statement expressing their sorrow and thanking police and the public.
“We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this Earth but forever in our memories,” the statement read.
“Let us all pray for peace on Earth.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.