Saturday, July 06, 2013

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday A Forgotten Feast in the Australian Church

The web site for my home Archdiocese of Brisbane provides a calendar of upcoming events. In April there is a listing for an ANZAC Day Mass. However in July when the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference invite Catholic to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday there is not a mention of this event.

This week's Cathedral bulletin did  note a NAIDOC Mass next Sunday, July 14 at 12.00pm but don't hold your breath  for them updating their online version.  Elizabeth Harrington, Liturgy Brisbane's education officer has published a set of guidelines for this celebration in her 2004 and 2007 columns for the Catholic Leader.

A google search for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday 2013 indicated that this significant day in the life of the Church has not been mentioned on  Diocesan web sites and is of little or no interest to the Catholic Blogsphere or even in discussion forums.

This year's letter from the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders should be essential reading  by every Catholic and person of goodwill as we launch NAIDOC Week 2013.

The Bishops set the context for our relations with the First  People of Australia in  the choice that makes an option for the poor as demonstrated by the words of deeds of Pope Francis. The two quotes which are highlighted in the letter should be printed out and posted on every  Church notice bulletin:

Indigenous youth self-harm and suicide rates continue to cast a pall over people’s lives. The tragedy of suicide leaves a host of unanswerable questions in the minds of grieving families and sorrowing friends.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples not only have a rightful place in Australian society but they have a uniquely important contribution to make that will enrich our lives, our nation and our Church.


The Bishops acknowledge the history of relations between Christianity and Aboriginal people has "not always been good news".  A recent article in Eureka Street by Mike Bowden is headlined: Catholic Church's Toll on Aboriginal Australia. The comments on this story point to untold joys and hope, grief and anguish of this history.

The Bishops remind  us of the words of Pope John Paul to Aboriginal Peoples at Alice Springs: which must continue to haunt our parishes, schools and Church structures: “... the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.”

NAIDOC Mass Brisbane 2011
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