“I DON’T know about you, but it’s been a very, very tough year,” Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said, reflecting on 2019 during a Facebook Live session with thousands of viewers from as far afield as Sydney and Suva.
“… We’re preparing for what we call a plenary council; we’ve got to make big decisions about the future, and that in itself can create a particular kind of pressure,” he said during a half-hour session in which he talked frankly about challenges facing the Church, the nation and the world, and answered online questions.
“Across the nation we’ve had droughts and fires … a lot of people are doing it very hard at this time in this country.
“If you look around the world it’s not much better – all kinds of political problems, economic problems, there’s all the usual problems and the world in many ways looks in bad shape.”
However, in a world that can feel “dark, empty and chaotic”, Archbishop Coleridge said during the season of Advent the voice that cried out was “the voice of hope”.
“Real hope is at the heart of Christianity,” he said.
“Christmas itself is when God becomes one of us (and) is also a feast of hope.
“The story of ancient Israel very often seemed hopeless.
“And time and time again the chosen people had to rummage through the ruins in search of hope in the midst of what seemed to be hopelessness.
“And it’s really that rummaging through a seemingly hopeless situation that generates the Bible that we have.”
Archbishop Coleridge asked his Facebook audience “What is your experience with hopelessness? Because it is precisely at that point that God can break through.”
Joy, from Gayndah, asked: “For those with a seemingly endless drought – where is the hope?”
“The drought has devastated not only the land but is also devastating human families and lives. And it is no secret that suicide is associated with drought – a sense of despair – there is no hope,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
He said there was a necessity to stand and walk with people on the land who were suffering from the drought and fires.
He also called for prayers for rain.
“Now this is a mysterious thing,” he said.
“God wants to work with us, and, out of our prayer, to be at one – to be completely united with the people who are suffering.
“It’s another way of expressing solidarity with those who are suffering.”
Another Facebook Live viewer asked: “Is there hope in the political world? We seem so divided.”
Archbishop Coleridge said he observed “an inability to disagree in a way that doesn’t destroy unity”.
“Any community depends upon a difference of perspective that can still feed into a genuine unity,” he said.
“There’s something wrong with our political culture.
“People like us have to keep asking: ‘How do we renew the political culture that allows us to disagree, but at the same time allows us to do so as a genuine community so that national life doesn’t become a battlefield?’”
Mike, from Loganholme, asked: “I’m a Broncos fan – can I have hope?”
“So am I,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“After the final this year things couldn’t get much worse.
“I have had a word to Karl Morris, who is the chair of the Broncos … and Karl is full of hope.
“Things can only get better, so Broncos fans can have hope.”
And finally from Henry in Brisbane: “Pope Francis is not a young man, how is he going?”
Archbishop Coleridge replied by describing his two visits to Rome in 2019, including an ad limina visit with Australian bishops and an audience with the Pontiff.
“I said to him (Pope Francis) at the end of a two-and-a-half-hour session; ‘Your energy in this setting is astonishing’,” the Archbishop said.
“He smiled at me and said to me (in Italian): ‘I like it, I’m a chatterbox. I get six hours’ sleep a night and that’s enough’.
“I guess prayer is part of the answer.
“For a man of 83 he is amazing, given his workload, his travel, what he has to deal with every day.”