CHRISTIAN leaders from around Australia will set off on an epic pilgrimage to the heart of the continent on June 4.
Eight Church leaders, each with a youth representative, will embark from Canberra on the nation’s principal Jubilee Year event.
Archbishop Francis Carroll of Canberra and Goulburn will undertake the 3600km-long Pilgrimage to the Heart on behalf of the Catholic Church after taking over as president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference from Cardinal Edward Clancy last month.
He will be joined by Justin Rofe, a youth ministry leader from Sandhurst diocese in Victoria.
Other national Church leaders who will take part in the pilgrimage are Anglican primate Archsbishop Peter Carnley, Baptist Union president Rev Tim Costello, Rev Barry Ryall of the Churches of Christ, Commissioner Brian Morgan of the Salvation Army, Rev John Mavor of the Uniting Church, Rev Dr Lance Steike of the Lutheran Church, Archdeacon Younan Kiwarkis of the Assyrian Church of the East. Rev Shane Blackman of the Aboriginal and Islander Commission will also accompany the party.
The Governor-General Sir William Deane will farewell the party in Canberra this weekend.
From Canberra, the pilgrimage will stop over at Narrandera, Cobar, Broken Hill, Peterborough, Port Augusta and Coober Pedy before arriving at Uluru on June 9 for a major ecumenical reconciliation event on Pentecost Sunday.
Pilgrimage organiser Fr Tony Doherty of Sydney said the trip was attracting a lot of interest in all the towns on the route. Many of the communities have organised meetings to welcome the visitors.
“We will listen to and talk with local indigenous and non-indigenous people along the way to hear what they have to say,” Fr Doherty said.
At Uluru, the pilgrims will pray together and invite Christians across Australia to enter the next 12 months in personal, congregational and ecumenical pilgrimage to “the heart of the meaning of life in Jesus Christ”.
The hope is that the pilgrimage will “call Australians and a watching world to the heart of what truly matters – just reconciliation between races, cultures and Churches”.
Catholic Leader editor, Marcus Kuczynski will be the only Catholic newspaper journalist accompanying the Pilgrimage to the Heart and will file the first of his reports from the tour next week.