Canberra (Agenzia Fides) - Bishops and leaders of the Eastern Rite Catholic communities in Australia recently met in order to establish stronger ties of communion and cooperation. The Church in Australia (with about 5.1 million Catholics, 28% of the population), truly has a multi-national and multi-cultural character. Awareness of this fact is especially present in reference to those groups that came to Australia from various countries around the world, bringing with them their own cultural and religious traditions. Thus, in the Catholic sphere, there is a wealth of representations from the various rites of the Eastern Churches.
The encounter took place in Saint Andrew’s Ukrainian Church, in Lidcombe (a province of New South Wales:), Most Rev. Issam Darwish (Melkite), Most Rev. Ad Abikaram (Maronite) and Most Rev. Gabriel Kassab (Chaldean) and Fr. Zakaria Gayed from the Catholic Coptic Church; and from the Ukrainian Church, Most Rev. Peter Stasiuk, Fr. Alex Kenez, Fr. Simon Ckuj, and Fr. Paul Babie of Adelaide.
As well as offering the Eastern Rite Church leaders a chance to show their unity and communion, it has also been, “an opportunity to discuss different practical issues and establish new ties of collaboration and cooperation,” said Bishop Stasiuk, who presided the meeting.
Fr. John Murphy, of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, also spoke during the forum, pointing out that the Eastern Rite communities offer a fundamental contribution to the pastoral care of the Church in Australia and in all Oceania, through the presence of their priests and religious.
The assembly also touched on the theme of formation of the clergy and vocations. Bishop Issam Darwish presented plans for a publication to be made explaining and illustrating the Eastern Rite Churches in Oceania, geared towards high school students.
In an atmosphere of fraternal love and freedom, those present reiterated the need to contribute to the evangelization of the continent. The next encounter will take place in March 2009, in the house of the Chaldean Bishops, in Sydney. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/3/2008 righe 28, parole 328)