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New Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher tackles tests of our times


The Australian’s Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP News Story
Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP Farewell Youth Mass, St Patrick’s Church Blacktown, Saturday 8 November 2014. Photography: Len Lara.

By Tess Livingstone, The Australian, Thursday 13 November

Stepping into the pulpit as Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop last night, Anthony Fisher confronted the big challenges facing the world ­­and the church.

For his Installation Mass, at St Mary’s Cathedral, he chose the Mass of Our Lady Help of Christians, patron of Australia.

It was open to the public, who packed the vast building and spilt into the crypt beneath to watch on television. The title Our Lady Help of Christians, Archbishop Fisher said, marked “the intersection and sometimes collision of three great ideas that shape the human soul in our age: Christianity, Islam and secularism”.

“Extremist strains of each have sometimes threatened the security of the others; at other times they’ve coexisted peaceably and collaborated in various ways,’’ he said. “As a Catholic bishop, I profess faith in the person of Jesus Christ. His Gospel is heir to much of Judaism and became the basis of a new Western civilisation and a great missionary endeavour to bring faith and worship, education and healthcare, welfare and pastoral care, to the ends of the earth.’’

The Archbishop said that, in the 16th century, “amid serious tension between Christianity and Islam (in the form of the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire), Pope St Pius V called on Europe to pray the rosary for peace and security’’. Pius V, who rallied a Christian force to roll back Muslim extremists at the Battle of Lepanto 1571, was, like Archbishop Fisher, a ­Dominican. Catholics traditionally ascribe success in that battle to Our Lady Help of Christians.

Archbishop Fisher held out “the hand of friendship and collaboration to people of other faiths or none’’. As bishop of Parramatta, he worked closely with Muslim leaders. In a gutsy sermon that suggests he will be a forthright leader, he also tacked the church’s failings: “The responsibility of the pastor is a grave one in any age, but in our time that has been aggrav­ated by the shameful deeds of some clergy and serious failures of some leaders to respond.’’

He had found it harrowing to listen to survivors’ stories, to hear how abandoned they felt and how they continued to suffer.

“To survivors of abuse and all affected I say: the church is — I am — profoundly sorry for what happened. All young people must be cherished and protected.

“The church can do better and I am committed to giving a lead in this area. I pray that the church will emerge from this period of public scrutiny humbler, more compassionate and spiritually regenerated. Only then will we regain credibility and trust in many people’s eyes.’’

Read Tess Livingstone’s full story at The Australian online

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