A priest is recovering in hospital after a man pulled out a knife and stabbed the 48-year-old in front of shocked worshippers in Melbourne's northern suburbs, The Age reports.
Fr Tomy Mathew was about to begin the 11am Italian Mass at St Matthew's Catholic Church yesterday when the man approached with what was believed to be a kitchen knife.
"You can imagine our shock," said one long-time volunteer at the parish, located on William Street in Fawkner. "But the ambulance was here quickly and he just walked out to get into the ambulance."
Fr Tomy had been in the foyer when the man attacked, police said.
A woman, who didn't want to be identified, said there were chaotic scenes when the stabbing occurred.
"There was some shouting and lots of movement in the back of the church," she said. "I saw Fr Tomy coming to approach me and he sort of waved me over. He asked if I could look at his neck. He said, 'I've just been stabbed'. As I removed some of his garment I could see quite a bit of blood."
She called triple zero and then tried to chase the attacker with two others and get photos of him.
Fr Tomy is recovering at the Northern Hospital.
The man had been asking to see Fr Tomy in the days before the attack, according to parishioners, but was not a member of the congregation.
Church officials have been told that the attacker was overheard saying something derogatory to Fr Tomy before he was stabbed, something to the effect of him being Indian and that meant he was a Muslim or Hindu and shouldn't be in charge of Mass.
A 72-year-old man was arrested late last night in connection with the stabbing.
"No charges have been laid at this stage," a police spokeswoman said.