A man armed with a knife approached  Reverend Tomy Kalathoor Mathew, 48, in the church foyer moments before the Italian-language mass at St Matthew's Parish in Fawkner, yesterday.


A 72-year-old man from Fawkner was arrested and charged with intentionally and recklessly causing injury.  He was bailed to appear in Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court on June 13.


It's believed that the offender told the priest that because he was Indian, he must be a Hindu or a Muslim and therefore unqualified to say mass, local media reported.


"There was some shouting and a lot of movement at the back of the church and then I saw Father Tommy coming to approach me. He waved me over and asked me if I could look at his neck because he said 'I've just been stabbed'," said Melina, one of the parishioners.


"At this stage, we believe the incident is isolated. There's nothing to suggest he's a danger to anyone else," Detective Senior Constable Rhiannon Norton told reporters.


Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman Shane Healy described the incident as "appalling".


Father Tomy Mathew suffered minor upper-body injuries and remains in a stable condition at The Northern Hospital. Vicar General Monsignor Greg Bennet said the priest was doing well in the hospital and wanted to get back to work soon.


It has not yet been established what knife stabber said to the Kerala priest but local media there have reported it be along the lines of being racist. The Indian population in Australia is considerably large and in a year at least more than 10 incidents of racist attacks, murders etc can be heard from Down Under. Now with this increasing fear of Indians/Asians/ people of Arabic descent/Muslims, anyone and everyone who can be mistaken for an Indian etc..is under threat from radicalised elements like this.


We saw how the Srinivas Kuchibhotla case worked out, and the police here have dismissed it as an isolated incident, but what guarantee is there that such incidents will be seen or heard in the future?


With PTI inputs