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Francis – the migrant pope

Migrant pope: Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead his general audience in St Peter’s Square. Photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters

Migrant pope: Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead his general audience in St Peter’s Square. Photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Agnes M. Whiten 

THE election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the leader of a large urban archdiocese in Latin America, as the 266th pope, who took the name Francis has resonated with many Australians.

Australia, like Argentina, is a country built up by migrants from all parts of the world.

Pope Francis, whose parents originally came from Italy, understands and lived the many issues facing people settling in another country. But the faith of many migrants holds them together.

Catholicism is the major religion in Australia, brought by the Irish who came to escape poverty in their homeland.

In succeeding years and with continuing migration from Italy, and other Catholic countries, it remains the predominant Christian denomination.

I arrived in Brisbane in 1972, from the Philippines, the only Christian country in Asia.

Catholicism was brought by Spain at the same time that it was spreading its influence in Latin America in the 16th Century.

The Philippines gained its independence from Spain in 1898, but Catholicism has been deeply embedded in the Philippines after more than 400 years of Spanish rule.

In the parish that I attend, Darra-Jindalee, I have seen the many changes in the faces of worshippers from the mainly European to the Asians, and now migrants from the African continent and the Pacific islands.

In the Darra parish, we have an active Samoan group, the Divine Mercy and a youth choir.

In many parishes around Brisbane archdiocese, Filipinos are usually leading the choir.

I remember when I was working with the former Archbishop John Bathersby as his women’s advisor in the early 1990s that I stressed to him the migrants will keep the Church alive.

It was decided to establish the Multicultural Pastoral Council under the responsibility of the late Bishop Eugene Cuskelly.

Multiculturalism is practised in the Catholic Church here.

The newspapers now are filled with stories about Pope Francis, of how he is beginning to demonstrate the role of the Church in this secularised world.

The world has shrunk because of instant communication and ease of travel.

People move around easily.

There are many people from the African continent risking their lives to get to Europe for a better life.

His actions remind many of us of Pope John XXIII.

Catholicism will remain a predominant religion in Australia and, with Pope Francis, who comes from a migrant background himself, will continue to attract and welcome back those who have strayed in the past.

There is great interest among not only the Catholics but many more so now with the appointment of Cardinal George Pell to Rome.

There are many young people attending church again and the World Youth Day has continued to attract many participants.

Pope Francis has invigorated all of us. The migrant Pope is with us.

Agnes M Whiten is the chairperson of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland and former womenís advisor to the Brisbane Archbishop Emeritus John Bathersby.

Written by: The Catholic Leader
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