Mourners find respite from their despair in poignant St Paul’s Cathedral service

‘We gather to offer the best that we can be for each other in grief.’ Photo: Justin McManus The noise of the world was deafened and was replaced by a choir that sang words of comfort. Photo: Justin McManus

‘Australia mourns the loss of her children.’ Photo: Justin McManus

There was a peace that was found in St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday. For some, it was the first time they had found it since their ordinary lives were upended.

“This was uplifting,” Dorina Rizk said. “We’ve been very angry in the past week. We want them back home.”

Ms Rizk lost her brother-in-law Albert Rizk and his wife Maree on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The Sunbury couple were returning from a European holiday.

She found solace in an hour inside the church’s walls in the middle of Melbourne, flanked by 1800 mourners.

The noise of the world had deafened and was replaced by a choir that sang words of comfort, and of the dead that now rested.

In his sermon, Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier said there had been little comfort and respect for the victims of MH17, whose innocent lives had collided with a conflict on the other side of the world.

“We look for hope in the midst of so much despair,” Dr Freier said.

“Even in death, a proper and dignified response has struggled to find a place in the midst of a violent separatist war.”

He called for support, privacy and respect for the family and friends of the victims.

“We gather to offer the best that we can be for each other in grief. We gather to show respect for the dead, to do our best to honour them,” he said.

The deaths of 298 people aboard flight MH17 brought together leaders from all religions. Those attending the multi-faith service were greeted by 37 daffodils laid on the steps of the church – one for every Australian victim of the downed aircraft.

“Australia mourns the loss of her children, 37 daffodils to represent your beautiful spirits,” an accompanying card read. “May you find sunshine in heaven.”

Inside, Dr Freier’s message was shared among Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish leaders and with the hundreds of mourners. Hundreds more watched a live feed on a large screen in Federation Square.

Eighteen Victorians died in the plane disaster, the largest number in the country. After the one-hour service, Premier Denis Napthine said he had spoken with some of the families and shared in their grief and anger. He joined calls for the bodies of all Australian victims to be brought home at once, but warned some families would face the “added tragedy” of not having bodies to bring back.

People wrote messages of comfort in books at the back of the church while, to the side, prayer candles flickered.

From a pew at the back of cathedral, a woman named Pam, from Hampton, said though she did not know anyone on MH17, she came to the service to find solace and pay her respects.

“I think it might bring me peace,” she said.

“It has been feeling wrong to lead an ordinary life.”

As mourners filed out, the noise of the outside – of trams, of chatter, of cars, of bustle – fractured the silence.

But still there was peace.

“The service was comforting,” Ms Rizk said.

She turned back to her family and was enfolded in their embrace.

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