AUSTRALIA’S Church leaders have pledged to further the cause of reconciliation with the nation’s indigenous people, its races and cultures, and between the Churches, following a deeply moving service with members of an Aboriginal community in the shadow of Uluru (Ayers Rock) on June 11.
The Pentecost service was the culmination of the nine Church leaders’ week-long Pilgrimage to the Heart, visiting a string of rural and outback towns along the way.
Eight of the leaders were accompanied by a youth representative, and travelled aboard a chartered bus from Canberra, for the biggest ecumenical event of the Year of Great Jubilee.
A group of about 60 Aboriginal people from the Mutitjulu community at the base of Uluru as well as from other parts of the Northern Territory took part in the June 11 open-air service with the Church leaders.
The pilgrims acknowledged their Churches’ past failures to respect Aboriginal culture, as well as their unwitting complicity in government policies for the removal of Aboriginal children from their families.
They pledged to “work together for reconciliation and for the healing of our ignorance and prejudice”.
The service was led by the dean of Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, Fr Tony Doherty, who was also the pilgrimage director.
One of the pilgrims, Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference president, Archbishop Francis Carroll of Canberra and Goulburn, said the Uluru service and the Pilgrimage to the Heart were largely symbolic but they had become more than that.
“It is clear that the reconciliation movement has begun to touch the hearts of people in rural Australia.
“We were much encouraged by the impressive display of Christian unity and the high degree of co-operation between indigenous and non-indigenous people in concerts and worship services along the way.
“It goes well beyond those involved in city marches. We are greatly encouraged,” he said. “The true heart of Australia cannot be healed until there is true reconciliation.”