Pell tells race gangs that Christmas is sacred

Cardinal George Pell has warned gangs of Middle Eastern descent not to target Christmas celebrations, after families were abused and gunshots fired into cars at a primary school's carols night in western Sydney on Monday.

The Australian reports that Cardinal Pell said the attack in the multicultural suburb of Auburn, where Lebanese Muslims are believed to have turned on Lebanese Christians, was "apparently motivated by religious intolerance".

He said: "I am deeply concerned about the targeting of Christmas celebrations at schools for students as young as five years old.

"The attack was apparently motivated by religious intolerance. This has no place in Australia today."

Police confirmed last night that they had been called to the St Joseph the Worker Primary School on Monday evening at about 9.30 pm after a priest and parents heard gunshots outside the school, predominantly used by Lebanese Catholics.

Earlier in the evening, about 400 parents and children were singing carols when a group of youths of Middle Eastern appearance verbally abused them.

Neither police nor school staff could find any damage, but yesterday two school staff members discovered bullet holes in their cars, with spent cartridges found nearby.

"The cars have been seized along with a number of cartridges found at the scene and these will be forensically examined," a police spokeswoman said last night.

After two days of clashes between the Lebanese and Anglo communities in hotspots along Sydney's beaches, this was the first case of an attack on religious - rather than ethnic - grounds.

A church in Macquarie Fields, also in Sydney's west, was damaged in the early hours of yesterday morning, suffering minor fire damage after what police believe was an incendiary device was thrown through the front door. Cardinal Pell said the actions of the gang towards the Auburn school community - which was "predominantly Lebanese, with Filipinos, Chinese and Anglo families also represented" - was "as unacceptable as the violence perpetrated by Anglo elements on Sunday at Cronulla".

The incident forced the cancellation of a carols service at the Holy Spirit Primary School in Lakemba last night.

Christmas is sacred, Pell warns race gangs (The Australian 14/12/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney
Statement by Cardinal George Pell In relation to attack on Christmas Carol Service (Archdiocese of Sydney 13/12/05)

Pell calls race mob action a disgrace (CathNews 13/12/05)

Pell condemns gunfire at Christmas carols (ABC News 13/12/05)
'Operation Seta' restores calm across the Sydney metropolitan area (NSW Police 14/12/05)
Police seek to stop third night of Sydney unrest (Reuters 13/12/05)
Australian cardinal decries racial clashes (Catholic World News 13/12/05)
Shots fired into cars at carol service (Sydney Morning Herald 14/12/05)
Jane Albrechtesen: Racism is repulsive, but so is self-loathing (The Australian 14/12/05)
Christian leaders call for harmony (The Australian 14/12/05)
Press Release on the recent Sydney riots - issued by Bishop Ad Abikaram Maronite Catholic Bishop of Australia (13/12/05)

14 Dec 2005