Page 2, 2nd August 1985

2nd August 1985
Page 2
Page 2, 2nd August 1985 — Laying down the red carpet

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Organisations: Congress, Catholic Church


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Laying down the red carpet

WHEN Australia's Catholic bishops announced recently that Mgr Brian Walsh of Melbourne would organise the papal tour of Australia next year, many Melbourne businesspeople probably ran for cover.

That is how Bruce Best put it in the Melbourne newspaper, the Age. "The good monsignor is a man they hate to love", he added. Backing Best was a businessman quoted as saying: "He's driven business people mad for the past 15 years. He never comes in just to say hello. He always wants something. But at the same time the guy's a saint".

Mgr Walsh himself sees his job as national director of Pope John Paul's visit as "the biggest challenge I've ever had, by a long shot".

The Pope is due in Australia in November, 1986, (no precise dates yet). but the saintly guy in Melbourne is ahead) well on the move. He has resigned as parish priest of suburban Dandenong to devote full time to the tour job and he has opened an office in central Melbourne.

He is extremely well equipped for the task. He was executive director of the International Eucharist Congress in Melbourne in 1973, when he first met, as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, the man for whom, as Pope John Paul H, he is now organising the 1986 visit.

Mgr Walsh, 49, also visited England and Ireland, joined the Papal entourage on the Pope's visits to Holland and Belgium and has had talks at the Vatican. His organising experience also led him to become an adviser to Eucharistic Congresses in Philadelphia in 1976 and Lourdes in 1981.

He has already made it dear that Pope John Paul is coming to Australia to see all the people, not just Catholics, but "everyone, no matter what religion".

The Pope is particularly anxious to meet Aboriginal people. Mgr Walsh has emphasised this. And the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Rev Sir Frank Little, has told a press conference that Pope John Paul will travel to the outback to meet Aboriginals in tribal areas.

The Aboriginals have had to struggle hard against discrimination and in order to have recognised the validity of their culture and its importance in Australian society.

In 1977, the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ian Viner said that a new wave of thinking that swept away old ideas about Aboriginal rights had begun.

"Aboriginals were at last being recognised as having a voice of their own, a culture to be prized and an identity to be respected. They had won the attention of Governments and of people throughout the land to their plight. Even more, they were gathering about them bands of Supporters from nonAboriginal groups to help them plead their cause for social justice and equality with other citizens".

The Catholic Church is among the more strenuous fighters for justice for the Aboriginal people. Pope John Paul's specific interest in them will put the seal on this and also heighten general public concern In the whole Aboriginal question.

"1 here is a precedent for this Pupal mediation. During his brief visit to Sydney In 1970, Pope Paul VI met with a group of Aboriginals. He addressed them as The Descendants of Australia's First Inhabitants". He told them they and the values they represented were precious to him, that he deeply respected their dignity and that he had deep affection for them.

"The Church proclaims that you, like all other ethnic minorities. have all human and civic rights — in every way the equal of those in the majority", he said. "You have likewise certain duties and obligations by reason of the common good, these necessitate the harmonising of your activities in a spirit of brotherhood and collaboration for the benefit of the society to which you belong.

"In this regard, however, it must be clear — and we would like to stress it — that the common good never can be used legitimately as a pretext to harm the positive values of your particular way of life. Society itself Is enriched by the presence of different cultural and ethnic elements".

It is interesting to recall Ibis now in the light of Archbishop little's assurance that, as well as Aboriginals, Pope John Paul will also look at migrants in Australia and the respect which should he given to their cultural interests.

In the Darwin diocese in Australia's Northern territory, the mission station at Port Keats has as its deacon a most colourful and dedicated Aboriginal Boniface Perdjert.

In an address to the Australian Bishops, meeting in Sydney, he said that priests, brothers, sisters and lay missionaries had worked very hard for his people. This had made them realise how much respect and concern the Church had for them. "iln fact", he said, "the Mission saved our people. They were dying out. Now they are getting big and strong". Deep down, he said. the Aborigines are a religious people.

Most movingly and picturesquely, he said that Christ did not worry about material things . . . "He liked the bush as we do. He loved nature. He saw in the lilies of the field a glory greater than Solomon's. He loved the big things like the hills and open spaces. He loved the little things like the mustard seed and the grain of wheat and the corn, drops of cold water and the little sparrows".

Deacon Boniface pointed to the seeds, berries, yams, small waterholes, and the quietness of the hills and the bush.

"Like Him" he added, "we have a deep sense of God In nature. We like the way He uses the things of nature to teach, and the important part nature plays in the Sacraments . . ."

No wonder at all that Bishop John O'Loughlin, of Darwin, said recently that there is a great interest in using Aboriginal languages in the Church's liturgy.

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