Sydney (Agenzia Fides) – Australia is a young and wealthy nation, however it is not immune from the challenges of a growing rate of poverty, unemployment, marginalization, and the disparity between the rich and poor. This is what the Australian Bishops are saying in their Social Justice Sunday Statement 2008. Social Justice Sunday will be celebrated in Australian Dioceses on September 28 this year.
The Statement, which is entitled: “A Rich Young Nation: the Challenge of Affluence and Poverty in Australia,” and signed by Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman of the Australian Bishops’ Social Justice Council, recalling Jesus’ dialogue with the rich young man (Mk 10:17-22), the Bishops say that “the challenge that Jesus presented to the rich young man is the same we face in Australia today: will we use our great wealth for the benefit of all and particularly for those who have been denied the benefits of prosperity? Jesus looked at the rich young man and loved him, but the man was shocked at the Lord’s words. As citizens of this rich young nation, perhaps we too lack one thing. Will we act on the challenge that Jesus offers, or will we too go away shocked at the challenge before us?”
Among the statistics presented in the message, it says that 11% of Australia’s population lives below the poverty line, a percentage which includes 412,000 children. It is a worrisome fact, as it occurs even with the appearance of a collective high standard of living.
The text mentions that the spread of consumerism, materialism, and hedonism in Australian society, along with a widespread prosperity, can lead to two fundamental results: an increased disparity between the rich and poor, with a growth in unemployment and social marginalization; and the spread of another class of poverty, that of a spiritual nature, which is manifest in a lack of values, selfishness, secularism, and an empty existence that material goods cannot fill.
The Bishops note, among other things, that the most disadvantaged groups, who are not on par with economic growth, are often the indigenous peoples, who endure discrimination and prejudice. Thus, they invite all citizens to join in works of solidarity that are organized by the Catholic Church or other organizations, so as to fill Australia’s society with new attitudes that include caring for the poor and looking out for the common good.
“As individual citizens, as families, parishes, communities and organizations, we can take the initiative to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need and to be enriched by what follows. For in welcoming the poor, the outcast and the stranger in need, we welcome the living Christ, our God and our Creator into our hearts and our lives,” the text says.
The Statement will be read and commented in all parishes on September 28, with a day of study, talks, discussion groups, and a special Mass and prayer vigil. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 17/9/2008)