Page 2, 27th December 1985

27th December 1985
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Page 2, 27th December 1985 — Letter from

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Letter from


by Alan McElwain

Hectic times for an 'authentic hero'


Pope John Paul II will spend six-and-a-half days in Australia next year.

He will land in Canberra, the Australian capital, on November 24, 1986, and leave for home from Perth, West Australia, on December I.

In between, he will have visited Australia's six States New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, West Australia and Tasmania and her two Territories Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.

In Melbourne (Victoria), where the official announcement was made from the National Papal Visit Office, Archbishop Sir Francis Little said Pope John Paul's visit would "freshen our dry land".

In Sydney (New South Wales), Archbishop Edward B Clancy, said it would prove to be "one of the most significant and memorable events in Australia's history".

Newspapers see the Papal trip as a "whirlwind affair". Monsignor Brian Walsh, national director of the visit, says all the Pope's previous tours have been "hectic". But for the 1986 Australian visit, Pope John Paul is conscious of the great distances to be covered and wants to make the most of his time down here.

Mr Rupert Murdoch's The Australian, this country's only national daily newspaper, has taken the opportunity to editorialise about the Catholic Church's battle for identity.

The Pope, it says, is an "authentic hero" of the 20th century. His pontificate, which has seen him travel more than any previous Pope, "can be seen as an attempt to reinvigorate the Church around the world but at the same time to recover its sense of coherence".

Bishop James Cuskelly has just told us he expects the Pope while he is in Australia to give lay people the strongest possible encouragement to fulfil their role in the Church and in society.

Bishop Cuskelly, auxiliary of Brisbane (Queensland), is a member of a bishops' committee collecting for the Pope background information on Australia and the Australian Church. He is also a Missionary of the Sacred Heart (MSC), an Order that, down the years, has done tremendous work with the Aborigines, in whom Pope John Paul is greatly interested.

In a curtain-raiser, as it were, to the 1986 tour, Bishop Cuskelly says one of the finest speeches Pope John Paul ever made was when he spoke on the laity's role to Australian bishops visiting Rome a couple of years ago.

He expects him, when he comes to Australia, to say: "As I said to your bishops in Rome, the role of the lay people in the Church is . . ." And on that note, presumably, the Pope will foster the whole movement to increase lay participation.

The Australian Aborigines' cause will receive its strongest and most spectacular backing when Pope John Paul, at his express desire, visits Aborigines where they live.

He will do this when he goes to Darwin, in the Northern Territory, a diocese in which there are several mission stations and which is in the hands of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

No one could have looked forward more prayerfully and hopefully to, or planned more enthusiastically for the Pope's visit, than Bishop John O'Loughlin, MSC, but, lamentably, he died suddenly in Darwin on November 14. He had been Bishop of Darwin for 36 years.

Such was his stature that he was given a Stale funeral and a special sitting of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly was called to pass a motion of condolence for him.

And during his Requiem in St Mary Star of the Sea Cathedral nothing in the great outpouring of affection and grief was more moving, more from the heart' than that of the Aboriginal people whom he loved and understood and who loved him and ever looked to him for guidance.

Pope John Paul undoubtedly will remember him fraternally when he is in the Territory "O'Loughlin Territory" — next year.

The Aborigines, have been increasingly in the news lately, especially over their land rights

claims. Our Land is Our Life is the title of a recently released

video on the land rights issue and it also sums up completely the Aboriginal people's philosophy.

"Aboriginal people feel they are not living unless they have land which is theirs", Bishop Raymond Benjamin, of Townsville (Queensland), said recently. "Otherwise they remain refugees — strangers and prisoners within their own country. And they fear this could be their fate for as long as they live here."

Bishop Benjamin, who is secretary of the Australian bishops' committee for Aborigines, says Australians must develop a coherent and consistent policy towards Aboriginal land rights.

"They will keep claiming their rights", he says. "They will keep calling out — sometimes angrily, sometimes rather pitifully — to white Australians to think again about the land."

Bishop Cuskelly, for his part, says he would expect Pope John Paul while he is in Australia "to stress the on-going effort needed to help Aboriginal people rediscover their dignity as persons."

The late Pope Paul VI, the only other Pope to visit Australia, made a point when in Sydney in 1970 of addressing a group of representative Aborigines. He urged them to preserve their own dignity and own culture.

Back to Bishop Cuskelly: "I would expect the Pope to stress the fact that, although we are an island continent, we are not an island in the sense that we can afford to be insensitive to the

needs of other peoples", he says. "1 would expect him to

stress that we will grow as a nation in direct proportion to our sensitivity to the needs of other nations and of other people."

The 1986 visit will not be Pope John Paul's first to Australia. In 1973, as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, he came here to attend the International Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne. He was photographed with a kangaroo.

Already famous, that photograph is likely to be in wide circulation again while Australians await the visit of the "people's Pope".

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