Domus Australia Opening: Cardinal's Speech




SPEECH OF WELCOME – His Eminence George Cardinal Pell

Your Holiness, your Eminences, my brother archbishops and bishops, the Honourable Tim Fischer, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Your Excellencies, friends all as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Holy Father, you are welcome in our small pocket of Australiana in this ancient city church of Rome, founded by St Peter and St Paul and home to the successor of St Peter.

We remember with gratitude and emotion your visit to Sydney for the World Youth Day in 2008 and we continue to gather the fruits of that life-giving encounter with Christ. Our prayer is that Domus Australia, which you will officially bless and open this evening will also produce religious fruits as well as many cultural and human benefits.

The centre which is an initiative of the Archdiocese of Sydney in partnership with Melbourne, Perth and Lismore, has been supported by many other dioceses, communities like the Australian-Vietnamese Catholics, parishes and individuals. We are grateful for this help.

The choir of St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney has travelled to Rome for the opening ceremonies after raising most of the necessary money themselves. They are the oldest continuing choir in Australia, founded in 1818 and we are proud of their accomplishments. The choir director has explained that they sing some Gregorian chant every day and assist our prayers at Mass and Vespers with a wide range of music including the polyphonic masterpieces of Palestrina, Gabriele and Victoria and of course the music of the German masters like J.S. Bach and Handel.

This area of Rome was inhabited in Imperial times. We find nearby the Baths of Diocletian, a formidable emperor and one of the last and most ferocious persecutors. Through the genius of Michelangelo the Baths now contain the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, often used by the Italian government for state occasions. The Praetorian Guard had their barracks ten minutes away on the site of Stazione Termini. A learned priest friend suggested that here might have been the place where the few vestal virgins who broke their vows in their eight hundred years of history were buried alive. Happily this spot is some distance away. We have conserved for viewing a section of first century B.C. pavement, put together in herring bone patterns.

More important than these fascinating remnants of secular history is the fact that this building was a study centre during the twentieth century for the Marist priests, founded in France in 1836 by Jean Claude Colin. Almost immediately Pope Gregory XVI entrusted to them the task of evangelizing the lands of the south western Pacific Ocean.

The Marists made a major contribution to establishing the Church in New Zealand and many islands and today their C.B.D. Church of St Patrick in Sydney is still a centre of prayerful vitality with Masses through Sunday afternoon as well as Sunday morning. We are pleased to think that we are continuing the missionary impetus of the Marists here at the Domus in a new direction.

Two principal ambitions inspired the purchase and renovation of Domus Australia. The first was to encourage more of the 60,000 Australian tourists who come to Rome each year to become pilgrims, sensitive to the religious dimension of their travels. The second was to strengthen the links between the distant Church in Australia and the Papacy.

Pilgrims are to be found in all the great religions and Jesus Himself travelled from Galilee to the Temple in Jerusalem. Naturally the early Christians continued this practice as evidenced by the second century graffiti scratched into the rock near St Peter's tomb.

On pilgrimage we visit new places, run across different ideas, disturbing our usual patterns of thought. This can also be a stimulus to repentance, to religious reawakening and genuine conversions and we hope and pray that Domus Australia will make a long-term contribution here.

If we travel east into the dawn, past Jerusalem, no country is more distant from Rome than Australia, except New Zealand, before the traveller starts to come closer to Rome from the west.Despite this immense distance Catholic Australia has an enduring tradition of loyalty to the Pope and this was demonstrated clearly, Holy Father, during your 2008 visit and at the canonisation of Australia’s first saint, Mary of the Cross MacKillop just one year ago. This solidarity in the college of bishops between the Australian bishops with and under the successor of St Peter remains rock-solid today.

Not everyone in Australia sees the necessity and usefulness of the Church's unity and universality in exactly these terms. Like all English speaking countries Australia cannot be understood without the Reformation and its consequent instincts for national self-sufficiency and individual judgement.

Under Christ Our Lord, the papacy is at the head of the world-wide communion of faith, hope and love, a system where bishops promise obedience to the Pope and priests promise obedience to their bishops.

For us the papacy is not just the longest surviving monarchy in the world, not just one of history's most intriguing examples of longevity and renewal, but one essential part of God's saving plan for his people, of spirit - inspired "communio".

The gospels of Matthew, Luke and John provide the Scriptural foundations and we appeal to the tradition which ranges from Ignatius of Antioch around 100AD to the First and Second Vatican Councils.

St John Chrysostom, "the golden mouth" who died in exile in 407AD was Archbishop of Constantinople, a rival centre of power to Rome, and he spoke of St Peter as the "leader of the choir", "the mouth of all the apostles", and "the foundation of the Church". This is our understanding too of Catholic unity.

No gains are ever permanent or complete and sometimes people understand their strengths imperfectly. When St John Fisher and St Thomas More objected to Henry VIII declaring himself head of the church in England no bishop other than Fisher and no member of More's family thought the difference significant enough to risk prison, let alone execution.We must always be careful, working to ensure that the eyes of our hearts remain clear and far-seeing.

In this beautiful Chapel which represents the best we have to offer I commend Domus Australia to the care and protection of Mary, Our Lady of the Southern Cross, I repeat my welcome and invite Your Holiness to speak to us and break open the Word for us.

George Cardinal Pell

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