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Bishops refocus on evangelisation in wake of a trimmed budget

Light of Christ: Young people showing their devotion to the cross at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival held in Perth earlier this month. Photo: Iceberg Media

EVANGELISATION efforts in Australia are being streamlined to focus more on the Church’s central mission of spreading the Good News.

During the biannual meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, it was announced that a revamped National Centre for Evangelisation would take responsibility for a number of offices.

The refocusing signals an end to the Office for Lay Pastoral Ministry, the Office for the Participation of Women and the Office for Youth, and their national council bodies.

Their functions will now become a vital part of the new centre.

Chair of the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry Archbishop Christopher Prowse said the new centre would focus on lay participation, formation and youth.

“The work of evangelisation is central to the life and mission of Christ’s Church and, in some ways, our current structures have caused us to work in silos,” he said.

“Our new National Centre for Evangelisation will work across a broader range of areas, utilising the skills of the new team in the most effective way possible, rather than asking them to work in discrete parts of the Church.”

Malcolm Hart will lead the new National Centre for Evangelisation, following a decade-long stint as the director for the Office for Youth.

Mr Hart has also directed the Australian Catholic Youth Festival four times.

“It has been a privilege to lead the Office for Youth for the past 10 years, but I am very much looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead,” he said.

“The new National Centre for Evangelisation will continue its central task of educating the faithful and those who are searching, including through the Catholic Enquiry Centre, and will take on the critical work of promoting the participation of lay people, including young people and women, in the life of the Church.”

ACBC president Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the conference had to make some difficult financial decisions based on external and internal expert reviews on its financial situation.

“The bishops are well aware of the human toll of these decisions, especially when it touches upon the livelihood of people who have served the conference so well,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“The decisions have affected every part of the conference that the bishops fund through diocesan levies. 

“The local and national priorities for the Church all cost money to deliver and support, and our current circumstances led us down a difficult but unavoidable path.”

Archbishop Coleridge said one of the considerations for the bishops was what work could be carried out on a diocesan level and what work required national scope.

“There is no doubt that the bishops’ conference will continue to hear from those working in diocesan and other ministries, with networks of people from around the country able to inform the various bishops’ commissions and their work,” he said.

Other changes from the ACBC meeting include the decision to discontinue the Australian Catholic Prisoners Pastoral Care Council and Australian Catholic Disability Council, and the conference’s grants to Catholic Social Services Australia.

The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office will be moved under the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry.

Australian Catholic Life, Marriage and Family replaces the Australian Catholic Life Council and the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.

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