Father Tomy Kalathoor Mathew has been serving St Matthew's parish as priest since 2014. Photo: St Matthew's Parish/Facebook

An elderly man has been arrested for stabbing an Indian priest during a Sunday mass in a suburb in Melbourne, Australia.

The alleged attacker, said to be in his early 70s, has been charged with causing injury to Father Tomy Kalathoor Mathew, 48, who is being treated for a stab injury in the neck at The Northern Hospital.

The injury is not life-threatening and the priest may be discharged soon, hospital sources said.

The Indian government, as well as the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, have condemned the incident, which happened at 11am as the Sunday mass was about to begin at St Matthew’s church in William St, Fawkner North.

A local man, who was following the priest, suddenly drew a knife and yelled at him: “Are you an Indian? Are you a Hindu or Muslim? You can’t say mass. I’m going to kill you.”

He then stabbed the priest in the neck in front of horrified worshippers and fled.

The man, whom the police declined to identify, is thought to be mentally unstable. He has been taken to a hospital for assessment and will be appear before a court on June 13.

According to church sources, Rev Mathew is lucky to be alive. The thick holy dress around his neck prevented the knife from going deeper. Hailing from the Kozhikode district of Kerala, he has been serving the parish since 2014.

The incident also came as a shock to the large Catholic community in Kerala, which remains clueless about the whereabouts of another priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped by Islamic State terrorists in Yemen early last year.

The federal government is lobbying for the release of Rev Uzhunnalil, who ignored official advice not to visit the country due to concerns over terrorism.

In Melbourne, there has been a number of crimes against Indian youths living in the city since 2010.

An Indian student, Nitin, was attacked by a gang of four early this year as he was walking toward his parked car near the Melbourne Polytechnic campus.

In another apparently racially-motivated attack, an Indian student, Manriajwinder Singh, was assaulted by a group of nine locals in Melbourne in 2013.

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