An official in the Catholic Church in Australia has apologised after a priest said murdered Irishwoman Jill Meagher would have been “home in bed” the night she was killed had her religious faith been stronger.
The priest was delivering a homily at St Christopher’s Primary School in the Melbourne suburb of Airport West yesterday when he raised a copy of a newspaper referencing Ms Meagher’s murder by Australian man Adrian Bayley.
The priest said if Ms Meagher had been “more faith-filled”, she “would have been home in bed” and “not walking down Sydney Road at 3am”.
The Drogheda woman was raped and murdered by Bayley in September 2012. This week, Bayley, who is serving a life sentence for Ms Meagher’s murder, was found guilty of raping three other women before he attacked Ms Meagher. He now has 20 rape convictions.
Regarding the comments made yesterday in Melbourne, a Catholic Church official there said the priest had apologised for the offence caused. The Age newspaper reported that Monsignor Greg Bennett, vicar general of the archdiocese of Melbourne, said the archdiocese was aware of the incident and did not support the “totally inappropriate” and “offensive” comments.
“I’ve spoken with the priest; he acknowledges that the homily wasn’t appropriate and apologises for the offence and upset it has caused,” he said.
“The reference to Jill Meagher in particular was offensive and inappropriate and the people of Victoria and Ireland mourn her sad and tragic death.
“We do not share the sentiment of the homily and we certainly apologise for the hurt that this homily may have caused today.”
Bayley’s latest convictions show that two of the victims — a Dutch backpacker and a local sex worker — were raped months before he attacked and killed Ms Meagher.
Following her death, more than 30,000 people marched in memory of Ms Meagher, demanding greater focus on women’s safety, while laws were changed to make breaching parole a criminal offence. Jill’s husband Tom has played a prominent role in the White Ribbon Campaign against violence against women.
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