There are about 45 active Catholic Bishops in Australia. 5 of them belong to Eastern churches, namely: Maronite, Melkite, Ukrainian, Syro Malabar and Chaldean. Each year in May the Bishops gather in Sydney for their annual Conference. The latest conference, which took place from the 7th – 13th of May, was held at St Mary McKillop Place.

Eastern Catholic Bishops by conference bylaws have the same responsibilities as other bishops in Australia. They can vote and be voted for. They take part in all deliberations.

This year’s conference was especially important for the Eastern churches. Fr. Brian Kelty’s paper on the deaconate in the Ukrainian Catholic Church was presented and included in the discussion for Deacons.

Bishop Robert McGuckin and Fr. Ian Walters presented a paper titled: “Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia.” The short paper is an attempt to instruct all Bishops, Priests and schools in Australia on how to deal with Eastern Catholics in all parts, but especially in the areas of Baptisms and Weddings. It is a complete instruction in all aspects of parish life when the others churches deal with faithful from the Eastern churches.

A few months ago, seven Australian bishops visited the Middle East to visit the war zone and to learn about the life of Christians in that region. They donated approximately half a million dollars, which was raised in Australia, to help with refugees in that region.

The conference also discussed all aspects of pastoral life in Australia. This year, elections were held for the various committees and organisations within the conference. All Eastern Bishops serve on various committees. This year, Bishop Peter Stasiuk was elected to the Justice, Ecology, and Development Committee. His specific role will be to serve as deputy chair off Caritas Australia. This appointment is in effect until 2018.

Taking advantage of his trip to Sydney, Bishop Peter also visited St Andrew’s parish Ukrainian school and also served a liturgy on Sunday the 10th of May there.