Australian Bishops See Need to Remember Gospel's Power

Begin ‘Ad Limina’ Visit Focused on New Evangelization

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ROME, OCT. 11, 2011 ( The greatest challenge facing the Church in Australia is convincing people of the importance faith has in their everyday lives, according to the president of that country’s bishops’ conference.

Australia’s bishops arrived in Rome last weekend for their regular five-yearly «ad limina» visit to the Vatican.

«The greatest challenge facing Australia is the influential power of sectarian views of life, where people believe it is possible to live a fulfilled life without belief in God,» Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide told Vatican Radio. «And the people then think that faith and the experiences of living in the Church are irrelevant to them in their lives.»

In response, he said the leaders of the Church must return «over and over again to the freshness of the power of the Gospel (…) and the freshness of the relationship with Jesus that should be the center of our lives.»

On a more positive note, Archbishop Wilson said that the majority of Australian Catholics are committed to and want to live out their faith. Catholics make up the largest Christian denomination in Australia, with 33 dioceses representing around five million Catholics, or 25% of the population.

The prelate said he and his fellow bishops come to Rome with a «deeply spiritual sense of pilgrimage. This is a very important moment for us for prayer and conversion,» he said, calling the visit an experience of «communion with the Holy Father.»

Truth and beauty

One of the Australian bishops’ priorities has been preparation for the upcoming synod on the new evangelization. Archbishop Wilson said his synod delegates will be armed with information gathered through initiatives and dialogue with Australian Catholics.

«The big challenge is to help them to rediscover the truth and the beauty of what they’ve already learned,» he said. «So often in our lives we need to relearn the beauty of what we’ve been taught about our faith and about our relationship with Jesus, and the life of faith in the Church.»

Beginning at Pentecost next year, Australian bishops and their dioceses are planning a special year of prayer and reflection called the «Year of Grace» to look at activating the life of grace in «a new and powerful way.»

The 61-year-old prelate also said the World Youth Days have had a phenomenal effect on the life of the Church in Australia. «We had thousands and thousands who went to World Youth Day in Madrid. And that built on the experience that we had in Sydney. It has allowed us to not only concentrate on the renewal of our ministry to youth but to look at the important values of our faith that should be reflected in everybody’s lives.»

He said all the bishops are reporting that young people have translated their WYD experiences into active involvement in the life of their local Churches.

«Some are people who have taken up vocations to priesthood and religious life, and lots are people who work in all of our dioceses engaged in the youth apostolate,» said the archbishop.


During the interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Wilson was asked about another challenge for Australia. «Ecclesiae Oceania» described the indigenous Australian aboriginal people as a «minority in their own land» and a «dispossessed cultural group.»

Archbishop Wilson said that though the aboriginals are small in number, they are of special importance to the Church. «Some of the really big problems they face are problems that are created by lack of opportunity, the lack of health care, the lack of education, the lack of social assistance and so on. And the Church is in the front line of not only doing all it can to respond itself but to remind the Australian community and our governments about the big responsibilities we have to care for these people.»

He also pointed out that over the last decade, Australia has seen more and more people coming to the country who are believers but not Christian. Consequently the bishops’ conference is concerned about ecumenism and interfaith relations. «We see an important responsibility to enter into dialogue with them, doing all we can to create harmony in our own community between the different faiths and to develop understanding between one another.»

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