“The downing of MH17 was not an innocent accident, it was the outcome of a trail of human evil,” Sydney Bishop Peter Comensoli told a packed St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral.
Grieving friends and family were joined by the nation’s dignitaries, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at the remembrance mass on Sunday.
The service was appropriately solemn as details emerged of some of the 36 Australian citizens and residents killed when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down on Friday over eastern Ukraine.
In the front pews were friends of Sister Philomene Tiernan, a nun from Catholic school Kincoppal-Rose Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, who died in the disaster.
“Sister Philomene was a beloved religious sister for all of us but a beloved family sister for all of you,” Bishop Comensoli said.
Students from the Kincoppal-Rose Bay school were also at the mass.
Bishop Comensoli delivered a powerful homily in which he referred to the “blame and buck-passing” strategy of those believed to be responsible.
“Evil will try to hide, obfuscate, deny,” he told the congregation.
“But by the light of day the true picture will be seen.”
It was harrowing to see fields of crops in eastern Ukraine strewn with human remains and wreckage, he said.
The mass was held as reports circulated that efforts to recover the victims’ bodies and secure the crash site were being hampered by Russian-backed separatists.
Bishop Comensoli said the destruction of flight MH17 showed “the shocking effects of our fallen humanity” confronting the world.
The congregation prayed for the nearly 300 lives lost and for those responsible to be brought to justice.