POPE John Paul II’s statement in support of Australia’s indigenous people during his 1986 visit to Alice Springs was a key talking point when he spoke with Archbishop John Bathersby in Rome on March 16.
Archbishop Bathersby of Brisbane met the Pope during a private audience at the Vatican for the Australian Catholic bishops’ five-yearly ad limina visit.
In their conversation, Archbishop Bathersby recalled his first meeting with the Pope at Alice Springs in 1986 when the Holy Father made a memorable speech to the indigenous people who were gathered there at the time.
‘The Pope remembers the occasion well and asked if the indigenous people were still happy with what he had to say,’ Archbishop Bathersby said.
‘I replied they regard his speech as a landmark statement on their journey to full reconciliation with all Australians, indeed so important that some indigenous people can recite the speech by heart.’
The audience also covered the Pope’s pleasure at the way young Australians had embraced the World Youth Day celebrations that he inaugurated, and his delight at an upcoming Catholic conference on marriage and the family in Sydney.
He was referring to the second National Catholic Family Gathering – ‘Living the Dream’ – which is being convened by the Bishops’ Committee for the Family and for Life from April 16-18.
The Pope noted with sadness that many Australian marriages did not survive the pressures of modern culture.
Before departing, Archbishop Bathersby assured the Pope of the prayerful support of Brisbane archdiocese as the Holy Father continued to lead the Church with wisdom and courage despite the cross of ill health that he carried.
The archbishop thanked the pontiff for the meeting and indicated how surprised and delighted the Australian bishops were that he was meeting each of them individually, despite his ill health and the inconvenience it must have caused.