The Australian Conference of Catholic Bishops took place in Sydney on 5-12 May, with the participation of all Catholic bishops, including Bishop Mykola Bychok, Eparch of Melbourne.

The bishops met for the first time in person after two years of on line meetings due to the Covid pandemic.

Each day of the conference began with a Divine Liturgy, followed by working sessions. During the first day, Archbishop Timothy Costello, of Perth, was elected President of the Conference and Archbishop Anthony Fischer of Sydney was elected as his Deputy.

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In the following days, chair and members of the various committees of the vairious Conference committees were also elected. It should be noted that there are a total of 11 such committees: 1. Canon law; 2. Catholic education; 3. Christian unity and interreligious dialogue; 4. Doctrine and morals; 5. Evangelization, laity and ministry; 6. Life, family and public engagement; 7. Liturgy; 8. Professional standards and safeguarding; 9. Relations with aboriginal and torres strait islander peoples; 10. Social justice, mission and service; 11. Plenary council.

According to a long tradition, each bishop, in addition to the diocese entrusted to him, also serves in one of the commissions of the Australian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Each bishops was appointed to participate in a commission. Bishop Mykola Bychok was appointed to the Commission for Evangelization, Laity and Ministry.

During the seven days of the meeting, many topics were touched upon, including reports of various conference commissions, canonical issues, Catholic education and educational institutions, Christian unity and interfaith dialogue, challenges for the Catholic Church through sexual abuse, moral doctrine, life after lockdowns, Catholic family and the example of parents in raising children, evangelization and participation of the laity in the life of the church, liturgical issues and preparations for the 2nd session of the Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia.

On 9th May, Bishop Mykola Bychok addressed the  Conference with a special message on the war in Ukraine, saying: “Today I want to share with you the pain of my people and my homeland, who for two months and a half have been suffering from a terrible war defending Ukraine from Russian aggression. It is very symbolic that I have my speech to you on 9th of May because today Russia celebrates the victory day. Today is 75th day of the war. We Ukrainians together with the Apostle Paul say: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4,8-9). I would like to share with you a witness of our soldiers, who have thanked us for our many prayers. They feel uplifted by God in this war. The soldiers asked us not to stop praying. Moreover, they said that this evil force could not be defeated only in a military way, but rather, in a spiritual way through sincere prayer and repentance.”

It is worth noting that among the working documents for the Episcopal Conference, there was also a prayer for peace and security in Ukraine, which all the bishops prayed thru the week.

The final day of the bishops’ conference ended with a solemn Divine Liturgy, after which all returned to their dioceses.

Brief information

There are more than five million Catholics in Australia. It is the largest Christian denomination, accounting for almost 25% of the population.

The Catholic Church in Australia consists of thirty-five dioceses, each headed by a bishop. Dioceses include geographical areas, the Military Diocese and 5 Eastern Catholic Churches, including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The Permanent National Assembly of Bishops is the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference (ACBC). The President of the Conference is Most Rev. Timothy Costello, Archbishop of Perth.