Pope Francis bestows blessing 30 years on from JPII visit
- 27 November 2016
To mark the 30th anniversary of Saint John Paul II's visit to Alice Springs, Pope Francis has bestowed an Apostolic Blessing upon the Indigenous community of Australia.
In a personal letter to John Lochowiak, the Chairperson of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, Pope Francis expresses his admiration for Australia's first peoples. "This anniversary affords me the happy opportunity to express my deep esteem for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and for your ancient cultural heritage," he writes.
The letter will be read by the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana at a commemorative Mass at St Christopher's Cathedral in Canberra today ahead of the 30th anniversary of the historic visit on November 29.
Highlights of Saint John Paul II's visit to Australia in 1986. Courtesy: xt3, Catholic Communications
In the letter, Pope Francis echoes the famous words of his predecessor, urging Indigenous Australians to protect and preserve their heritage at all costs. "Your culture, which shows the lasting genius and dignity of your race, must not be allowed to disappear. Do not think that your gifts are worth so little that you should no longer bother to maintain them. Share them with each other and teach them to your children. Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your languages, must never be lost."
Mr Lachowiak expressed delight at receiving the letter. "We are overjoyed upon the receipt of the letter and blessing from His Holiness,” he said. “It is more than just a blessing, it is confirmation that we, as first Australians are appreciated and respected by the Catholic Church. “We, and the Church in Australia, are now challenged to continue to bring this respect to life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics.”
This Sunday 27 November 2016, NATSICC calls the Church across Australia to come together in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and use the power of faith and unity to bring to life Pope Francis’ hope that “we offer a convincing and tangible sign that we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but ... fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph2:19).
Catholic Mission has long been a supporter and advocate of the NATSICC and Australia's first peoples. The growing partnership between the two organisations includes support for initiatives such as Indigenous immersions, which are run throughout the year by Catholic Mission.
NATSICC has prepared a dedicated website for the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Saint Pope John Paul II's visit to Alice Springs. Click here to check it out.