Bishop Vincent Long responded on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops to a High Court finding on 3 February 2016 that the offshore processing of the refugee status claims of asylum seekers is not contrary to Australian law. He called for compassion and mercy for families currently in Australia who are threatened with return to offshore processing centres, asking the Australian Government to focus on protecting these vulnerable people from harm and respecting their dignity. Bishop Long is the Chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Bishops Conference’s spokesperson on refugees. He said: “I urge the Australian Government to ensure that no child is subject to an unsafe and harmful environment and that no-one is returned to where they may face physical, psychological and sexual violence and harm.” “The Catholic Church opposes mandatory detention and offshore detention because these policy responses do not respect the dignity of people seeking our help.” Read the full statement here.
Archbishop Denis Hart, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference offered condolences and deep sympathy for the victims of terror attacks in France. He called for unity among cultures and expressed special concern that Australians of Middle Eastern backgrounds should not be vilified as a result of the attacks. He noted that millions of Syrians and Iraqis are fleeing similar atrocities by IS and that Australia should not close its borders to them. Speaking on behalf of the Australian Bishops, Archbishop Hart said that “acts of terrorism can never be allowed to divide communities through fear and hatred”. He urged Australians to “resist calls to close our borders to refugees from the Middle East.” He joined prayer for Paris with prayer “for the millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing similar atrocities by Islamic State against Christian and other minorities.” Archbishop Hart concluded his message with a call for unity: “Here in Australia, we pray for a continued national resolve to assist refugees fleeing this violence and oppression. We pray for unity among all cultures of our diverse Australian community, and call for a special concern to ensure that Australians of Middle Eastern background and Muslims are not subject to intimidation or vilification as a result of these tragic world events.” See the full text
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has welcomed Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si (On the Care of Our Common Home). Archbishop Denis Hart, President of the Conference, welcomed the encyclical, saying he was pleased to see that the letter critiques our weak response to ecological and social issues: “Pope Francis calls on people to seek new ways to understand the economy, condemns our throwaway culture and dependence on technology, and is calling on people to reassess the dignity of humanity and the integrity of creation in finding solutions to the ecological crisis.” He notes that the Pope draws upon bishops’ statements from around the world, including the Australian bishops. Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, Jacqui Remond, said Laudato Si’ is a game-changer for the Catholic community and it offers Australians a powerful moral and spiritual imperative for environmental and social action. This encyclical calls on us all to embrace a new lifestyle that respects all of creation, and asks our leaders to commit to effective global agreements. Read the media release
Listen to & Learn from Women The United Nations commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November. To help the Catholic community to get involved, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement on violence against women. They say that it has no place in society and call on the whole community to take action. This is the first time that the Australian Bishops have made a statement for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Their action demonstrates that this is not a ‘women’s issue’ but a concern for all men and women. The Bishops say that the first thing to do is to listen to and learn from women. They offer five other suggestions for action. Six Ways to Act to Stop Violence Against Women The Australian Bishops suggest these ways of supporting action to eliminate violence against women: • Listening to women and learning from women • Learning about the issue of domestic violence • Challenging language that degrades women • Learning to identify and oppose gender harassment and violence in your community • Supporting local women’s programs • Examining how your own attitudes and behaviour might contribute to the problem ACBC Statement on Violence Against Women You can read their full statement here: ACBC Media Release on Eliminating Violence Against Women
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has issued a statement pleading with those in Government and the whole Australian community to have respect for the rights of asylum seekers. They denounce current policies as ‘institutionalised cruelty’, ask for an examination of conscience concerning racism and for an end to the dehumanisation of people in need. Read their statement here.