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Pope sends blessings to historic Church event

October 4, 2021

Pope Francis has sent greetings and blessings from Rome as the program for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, the first such event in this country in 84 years, began today.

A message read out during the opening plenary session this morning said the Plenary Council “represents a singular ‘journeying together’ of God’s people in Australia along the paths of history towards a renewed encounter with the Risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

The message, read by Msgr John Baptist Itaruma from the Apostolic Nunciature in Australia, said Pope Francis “prays that the Council may be a graced occasion for mutual listening and spiritual discernment, marked by profound Communion with the Successor of Peter”, a term used to describe the Pope.

“In this conciliar process, the Church in Australia is challenged to listen to the voice of the Spirit and to bear witness to the perennial truth of the Gospel and to develop new and creative expressions of evangelical charity,” said the message, signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, in a message to Pope Francis said the Council’s 278 members are “deeply conscious that the Plenary Council takes its place within the universal Church”.

Archbishop Coleridge continued: “Our ardent hope is that the Plenary Council will be a gift not just for the Church in Australia but for the Church around the world.

“Pope St John Paul II described the Second Vatican Council as ‘the great grace given to the Church in the twentieth century’ (Novo Millennio Ineunte). For us, the Plenary Council is the great grace given to the Church in Australia at the dawn of the twenty-first century.”

The exchange of messages between the Holy See and the Church in Australia followed an opening address from Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.

Archbishop Costelloe, who yesterday inaugurated the Council by celebrating the opening Mass, welcomed the members, as well as a number of Catholic leaders from Pacific and Asian countries, as well as the president of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Drawing from St Paul and the writings of Pope Francis, Archbishop Costelloe laid out the important task the Council’s members are undertaking.

“As today as we take this bold and crucial step forward in our own response to the call for the Church’s transformation we can be inspired and encouraged by the energy, persistence, creativity and fidelity of Saint Paul and by the dream of Pope Francis whose words have helped inspire and shape the agenda which will guide us through the days ahead,” he said.

Archbishop Costelloe acknowledged that members would likely be coming with “high hopes”, “great expectations”, but also “conscious of the heavy responsibility we bear”.

“In the mysterious ways of God’s providence, it is we who have been called together to undertake this historic and grace-filled task on behalf of the whole Catholic community of our nation,” he said.

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