A diocese prays that those responsible may gain a “profound understanding for the evil of their actions.”
Following Thursday’s crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, religious and civil leaders from around the world are offering up prayers, and searching for answers about the tragedy.
“Our entire Church prays for the eternal repose of the souls of the innocently killed,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Kyiv-Halyc said in a July 18 statement.
Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew Thursday when it was shot down in eastern Ukraine close to the Russian border, an area that has seen months of clashes between government troops and pro-Russia separatists. The victims came from 13 nations, including 192 Dutch citizens and 80 children.
The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church stated that the “tragedy has revealed that evil… is a real threat to peace and security of the whole world,” and prayed for peace and consolation both for “Ukraine and for the entire world.”
“We remain united in our prayers with the families of the deceased and with all those suffering due to this tragedy,” he stressed.
Also among the dead was Sister Philomene Tiernan, an Australian member of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart and a teacher at Kincoppal-Rose Bay Catholic School in Sydney. The Sydney Morning Heraldsaid she was returning home after attending a conference in Britain, a theology course in Ireland and a retreat in Burgundy, France. A statement issued by the Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart, where she had been associated with their community for over 30 years, mourned her loss.
“We are devastated by the loss of such a wonderfully kind, wise and compassionate woman, who was greatly loved by us all. Phil contributed greatly to our community and she touched the lives of all of us in a very positive and meaningful way," said Principal Hilary Johnston-Croke.
"Her entire existence was to bring good into this world," wrote Lucy Thackray, a former student of the nun’s in a Daily Mail tribute. "But she gave unwavering guidance and taught people that faith in God, in themselves, and in the world would carry you through the journey."
An estimated 100 victims of the plane crash were HIV/AIDS delegates, including prominent AIDS researcher Joep Lange, on their way to a conference in Melbourne.
Lange had worked in the field of infectious diseases since the early years of the AIDS epidemic and had focused his efforts on making treatments cheaper in poor nations in Asia and Africa. “Joep was a person who knew no barriers,” said Dr. M.M. Levi in a statementon behalf of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, where Dr. Lange worked.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called the crash an act of “terrorism” and pledged that those responsible for the attack “will be held responsible.”
The Ukrainian government also released a statement saying that the plane was shot down by Soviet-era “Russian air defense systems” used by pro-Russian separatists. Ukrainian intelligence also intercepted a phone call allegedly between a separatist leader and a Russian security officer, though the veracity of the call has not yet been verified.
Russian president Vladimir Putin offered his “condolences to the bereaved families” and the home countries of the victims of what he called a “terrible tragedy,” but blamed Ukraine for the event, saying the country “over whose territory it happened is responsible.”
He said “renewed hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine” were responsible for the event. Putin stated that the Russian government would support investigations into the crash.
At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jetliner likely was downed by an SA-11 missile and "we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel," the Associated Press reported.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the meeting that Russia has provided SA-11s and other heavy weapons to the separatists.
Ukraine on Saturday accused Russia of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site — a report the rebels denied. AP reported that armed separatists hampered access to the site Saturday, limiting the movements of international monitors and raising concerns that evidence showing who brought the plane down would be lost, tampered with or destroyed.
In Moscow, Deputy Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov questioned Ukraine’s willingness to present a full accounting of its inventory of surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles in the region.
On July 18, during a news conference, President Barack Obama said the crash is a “wake-up call for Europe,” saying that “outrageous event underscores it’s time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine.”
Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak pledged that a Malaysian disaster assistance team would be dispatched to the area and that “no stone will be left unturned” in bringing those responsible to justice.
The location of the black boxes remains a mystery and the separatist leadership remained adamant Saturday that it had not located them. Aviation experts say, however, not to expect too much from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders in understanding how Flight 17 was brought down. The most useful evidence that’s likely to come from the crash scene is whether missile pieces can be found in the trail of debris that came down as the plane exploded, said John Goglia, a U.S. aviation safety expert and former National Transportation Safety Board member.
Across the Netherlands, at sports clubs, schools and churches, friends met Saturday to console each another and attempt to come to terms with their loss.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands commented that he was “deeply saddened by this horrible news” and that his country’s “thoughts go to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims.”
Bishop Jozef Point of Haarlem-Amsterdam expressed the diocese’s prayers and condolences to the families of the victims, and invited “all believers to pray for the victims and their families,” particularly at a Mass Sunday at the Cathedral to be held in honor of the victims.
Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht also assured families that his archdioceses was praying “for the repose of the people involved in this tragedy,” saying that for loved ones of the deceased “a time of great uncertainty and mourning has come.”
Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas tweeted July 18 asking his followers to “Please keep in your prayers those affected by the tragedy of the Malaysia Airlines plane disaster. Have mercy on them, Lord.”
The Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur expressed their sorrow over the crash in a blog post asking mourners to turn to God rather than revenge, anger, or blame.
The diocese prayed that those responsible may gain a “profound understanding for the evil of their actions,” and seek forgiveness from God, that God may give the families of victims “consolation in their mourning,” and that the victims themselves may find eternal rest and peace in God.
Catholic News Agency and AP contributed to this report.