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Mourners gather in PNG for murdered Aussie priest

More than 1000 mourners filled a Port Moresby church on Saturday for the requiem mass for an Australian priest slain in his bed by a criminal gang.

Among those who paid their last respects to Franciscan Fr Fabian Thom, formerly of Newcastle, NSW, were the Catholic Archbishop of Port Moresby, Brian Barnes, Speaker of parliament Bernard Narokobi and one of his closest friends, the Governor of Bougainville, John Momis - a former Catholic priest. Also present were his sisters Janette and Helen and a niece, Fran.

Fr Thom, 64, had celebrated his 40th year as an ordained cleric, both as a Franciscan brother and then a priest, last month. Thirty-five of those years were spent in PNG.

He was shot dead in his bed at the Franciscan Formation House, a novitiate seminary at 16 Mile, 29 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby on 16 August after thieves broke in.

Fr Eduardo Arnenta, a colleague at the seminary, said six suspects were still being questioned by police in connection with the murder. One suspect had been eliminated from police inquiries, but another suspect was detained last Friday, he said. He said a post mortem examination showed Fr Thom - named Robert at birth but known by his second name, Gerard, before he was ordained as Fabian - had died from a shotgun wound to the head.

After the requiem mass at St Joseph's Church, Boroko, in Port Moresby, Fr Thom was buried at the MSC cemetery at Bomana, near 16 Mile.

Fr Fabian Thom OFM, God's road-runner

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