Thousands of Melburnians and visitors from all around the world joined the Christmas celebrations at St Paul’s Cathedral despite recent news of a purported Christmas terror attack on the Cathedral and the Flinders Street Precinct.
This year marked the centenary of Carol Services at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne, and the first time that women and girls joined with the traditional choir of boys and men in this Christmas Eve tradition. As a sign of their solidarity, the service was joined by special guests (pictured above): Mohammed Mohideen, President of the Islamic Council of Victoria, David Marlow, Director of the Jewish Community Council, Helen Kapalos, Chair of our Multicultural Commission, Deputy Commissioner of Police Andrew Crisp, Consul General of the United Kingdom, Chris Holtby, and many faith leaders.
Dean of Melbourne, Dr Andreas Loewe, greeting the congregation, said: ‘Yesterday we heard the news that there were people living in our community who had planned to disrupt, even harm, this celebration of peace. As Christians, we believe that God loves this world so much that he sent his only Son into the world to bring peace and reconciliation to our world. Today, we celebrate this message with joy and conviction’. In his sermons, the Dean called for peace and reconciliation, and encouraged worshippers to be peace makers in their own communities and places of work.
Midnight Mass, the purported target of terror activity, was attended by a capacity congregation. As at all services throughout the day, worshippers had queued on the Cathedral forecourt to attend. After Midnight Mass, worshippers and visitors were reluctant to leave the Cathedral at what had been a day of poignant, joyful celebrations. A 90-strong gospel choir, Open Door Singers, conducted by Sean Islip, had led the music at the service. At 1.15am, they gave a spirited, impromptu carol concert at 1.15am delighting our many worshippers.
Dr Loewe said: ‘This Christmas has been very special: I thank the people of Melbourne and our many interstate and overseas visitors for their solidarity and support. I was able to meet people from many faiths, especially Muslims, who made a point of sharing with us in celebration at this time potential threat to our Cathedral. I give thanks for the tireless work of our colleagues from Victoria Police, who attended each of our services. And I thank all those who, by their delight and joy helped remind our city of the message of Christmas: “Joy to the world; fear not, the Saviour is born”.’