During the last couple of weeks, our Ukrainian Catholic community in Australia lost two very close friends.
On 29 December 2020, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Sydney returned to the Father while on 17th January 2021 Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide passed away.
Both were Canon lawyers, Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church of Australia, who had a keen interest in the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk was a friend of both. During the annual Australian Bishops Conference, Bishop Peter used to spend a lot of time with them, especially during afternoon walks. The Eastern Catholic Churches in Australia and around the world were often discussed. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is a minority church in most parts of the world. The Roman Catholic Churches have been big benefactors, especially when it came to vocations, Catholic schools, hospitals etc.
Most Roman Catholics, bishops included, had very little understanding or appreciation of the customs and traditions of the Eastern Catholics. Bishops Robinson and Wilson and others were noticeable exceptions. They often advised Bishop Stasiuk to speak up about the East and noted that it was important to educate not only the bishops of Australia but the clergy as well about the treasures which are inherent in the Catholic East.
In May 1998, both bishops encouraged Bishop Peter to introduce a motion at the conference which would reverse the prohibition of the 1949 conference which eliminated the existence of married Eastern Catholic clergy in Australia.
Enclosed is the entry of the Resolutions of the May 1998 Bishops Conference which resulted from the conversation.
Soon after the motion was passed, the Canadian Catholic Conference passed a similar motion. In June of 2014, the Holy See issued a decree which allowed the ordination of married men to the priesthood throughout the diaspora.
This motion perhaps was possible in 1998 because Bishop Geoffrey in 1997 edited a booklet which was written originally in the Ukrainian Eparchy and was published by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. It was republished in Canada, New Zealand, and the USA. which was called “Eastern Catholics in Australia”. This booklet has made a tremendous contribution to the life of Eastern Catholics in Australia. It has informed many people to the Eastern churches of the world.
Both Bishops Robinson and Wilson are fine examples of all the Catholic bishops we have had and have in Australia. They are all true friends. Eastern Catholics owe a debt of gratitude to all of them.
This post is also available in: Ukrainian