Praise be Jesus Christ!
Your Beatitude, my dear brother Bishops, I was delighted to receive your kind invitation to attend your 2015 Synod. Unfortunately, I am not able to be with you this week, but I am grateful to Bishop Curtin for agreeing to carry my message to you.
Your Beatitude, the Bishops of Australia remember well your recent visit to Australia, and we were pleased, and honoured that you were able to make the long journey to be here with your Ukrainian diaspora community. Many thousands before you have also made that long trip to our southern hemisphere including Pedro Fernandez de Quiros (1565 – 1614) an early Portuguese explorer who first called this, then unknown continent, the “great south land of the Holy Spirit”. It was Andrea Corsali, an Italian explorer, who in 1515 first described, and recorded, the constellation we now know, and honour, as the “Southern Cross”. It is this southern cross which appears on our National flag, and is easily recognisable in our skies.
Hopefully, your journey last year, while long, was not quite as arduous as that of those early explorers! It is the Cross of Christ which has guided, and influenced, our two nations. This Cross of Christ continues to be part of the enduring profession of faith for our two branches of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” (i)
Indeed, both Ukraine and Australia have always been guided by God’s Spirit across the centuries. With the Cross of Christ on our lips and the Spirit of the living God in our hearts, our two nations have been enriched by the thousands of citizens who have struggled to build strong, prosperous and free communities.
Here in Australia we have been richly blessed by the gifts, talents and families of so many migrants. Many of our migrants came from Ukraine seeking the freedom, and safety, to express their religious and cultural identity.
While our local Churches are forever united by our faith in Jesus Christ; our two peoples are now inextricably linked by our common history and humanity.
Your Beatitude, as the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, I thank you for your leadership and vision; I thank you for your encouragement to our Australian based Ukrainian communities; and I thank you for your fidelity to our Catholic faith and tradition.
The Bishops of Australia are aware of the enormous contribution made by the Ukrainian community to our nation. Each Australian Diocese has been richly blessed by the thousands of men and women, young and old, who have left their beloved homeland to make a new start here. Each Australian Bishop acknowledges the positive influence of the Ukrainian born, and of those of Ukrainian descent, on our multicultural society.
We need the witness they give to faith and family values; we need the communities of service and hospitality they build.
Your Church has indeed enriched our Australian society!
Your people, wherever they are, have always shown “a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land”. (ii)
As the Conference President, I assure you of my prayers, and the prayers of my Brother Bishops, and I affirm that we stand in solidarity with you during these complex and difficult days of oppression and hostility.
Yet, in the face of any great difficulty, your Bishops have always shown “great tenderness which is not a mark of the weak but of those who are genuinely strong, fully aware of reality and ready to love and serve in humility” (iii)
May the prayers of our Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop and your great, and Venerable, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky guide your deliberations during this week, and may we all learn once again, with God’s grace, how to “live wisely, to think deeply, and to love generously.” (iv)
May God Bless you all.
+ Denis J. Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
(i) Niceno-Constatinopolitan Creed.
(ii) Laudato Si, number 179.
(iii) LS, number 242.
(iv) LS, number 47.
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