The Australian Conference of the Catholic Bishops was held on November 9-12, with the participation of all Catholic bishops. As Australia is just starting to come out of the lockdown after the coronavirus pandemic, the conference was held online.

To date, not all states are open, so it was decided to organize at least 2 locations in Melbourne and Sydney, where the bishops were able to gather together. Instead, all other bishops joined the conference online from their place of service.

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The conference began with a Divine Liturgy presided over by Bishop Paul Bird, Diocese of Ballarat. In his homily, Bishop Paul said: “Today, November 9, is the day of the founding of the Redemptorist Congregation in Skala in 1732. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who was the founder of a new branch of the male congregation, faced many challenges that were at that time in the Kingdom of Naples. It would seem that they would not be able to do anything with this small community of like-minded people; but it was the Work of God. Today, the figure of St. Alphonsus is an example for the church in Australia, where, among various modern challenges, new methods can be found for preaching the Word of God.”

At the beginning of the meeting, the President of the Conference, Bishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, welcomed the four new bishops. Welcoming Bishop Mykola Bychok, Eparch of Melbourne, Bishop Mark said: “Your journey to Australia was like the journey of a chosen nation in the Old Testament to the Promised Land. Since Australia does not have a nuncio now, we hope that the new nuncio’s trip to Australia will be faster than the arrival of Bishop Mykola on the green continent.”

During the four days of meetings, many topics were touched upon, including reports of various conference commissions, canonical issues, Catholic education in educational institutions, Christian unity and interfaith dialogue, challenges for the Catholic Church through sexual abuse, moral doctrine, exit from quarantine and vaccination issues, emphasis on the 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 the result of the 1st session of the Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia.

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 the Catholic Bishops. Each of the new bishops was appointed to participate in a commission. Bishop Mykola Bychok was appointed to the commission for evangelization, laity and ministry.

November 12, according to the Gregorian calendar, is the day of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych. The Divine Liturgy was presided over by Bishop Greg Bennett, Diocese of Sale, who emphasized in his homily: “Saint Josaphat gave his life through martyrdom by visiting his faithful. For us, he is a shining example of a true Shepherd who is ready to give his life for his sheep.” At the end of the Eucharist, Bishop Mykola, at the request of the bishops, sang a song to St. Joshaphat, “Bishop Father.”

The final day of the Bishops’ Conference began with an introductory speech by the President of the Conference, Bishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, who said: “Today, celebrating the memory of St. Joshaphat, we have a unique opportunity to have Bishop Mykola Bychok, the son of the Ukrainian people.” The four-day meetings ended with the common prayer “The Angelus” by all bishops.