By Anthony Barich
POPE Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Nuncio to Australia says it is of “utmost importance” for the Catholic Church in Australia to renew pastoral ministry to capitalise on World Youth Day Sydney in July.
Of the “utmost importance is that the spirit of WYD is kept alive through the creative and appropriate initiatives aimed at fostering and renewing pastoral youth ministry,” Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto – from Padua, Italy – told the Australian bishops’ Plenary Meeting held at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney from November 24-28.
Throughout the week the bishops received briefings from WYD08 organisers, during which they focused on the xt3 social networking website, which now has more than 40,000 members.
While still facing stiff competition from facebook, even among young Catholics, the bishops said xt3 is proving to be a “popular and effective tool for youth ministry and for connecting with young people who might not be Church-goers”.
The Bishops formally thanked Cardinal Pell, Bishop Anthony Fisher and the staff of the Archdiocese of Sydney for all that they contributed to the organisation and conduct of WYD08 and approved a blueprint for the future of youth ministry co-ordination.
Also at the Plenary Meeting:
l The bishops heard from Sr Anne Derwin rsj and Sr Maria Casey rsj on the progress of the canonisation process for Blessed Mary Mackillop.
The Josephite Sisters told the Australian bishops’ Plenary Meeting that the process continued “slowly and painstakingly, with a great deal of attention to detail from the Roman authorities”. There was still no indication of when the process might be completed. Sr Maria has been appointed Postulator of the Cause for Blessed Mary Mackillop, at the request of the former Postulator, Fr Paul Gardiner SJ, who felt he was no longer able to travel to Rome as often as required.
l The bishops noted the retirement of Bishop Patrick Dougherty and welcomed the newly appointed Administrator for the Diocese of Bathurst, Fr Patrick O’Regan.
They also noted the passing of Bishop Peter Quinn, Emeritus Bishop of Bunbury, since their last meeting.
l The bishops discussed Victoria’s radical new abortion laws “at length”, with Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart and the other Victorian bishops discussing their experiences in vigorously opposing the legislation in a range of different forums.
These included ACBC president Archbishop Philip Wilson sending a memo to all Australian bishops asking the faithful of their respective dioceses to pray for the Victorian abortion bill before it passed.
Archbishop Hart said publicly during the debate before the Bill passed that it could mean the closure of maternity units in Catholic hospitals, as doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers would be forced to refer patients on to another physician who did not oppose abortion.
The Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life spoke about the successful ‘Walking with Love’ symposiums held around the nation this year and each bishop was given a copy of the ‘Walking with Love’ DVD, which was partly filmed in Fremantle.
The Walking with Love program delves into the issue of unexpected pregnancy and encourages the Catholic community and “all people of goodwill” to increase their support for vulnerable pregnant women, and to reach out to those women, their husbands, partners and families, who have been touched by an abortion experience.