This recording was made at the Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney during an ecumenical service praying for refugees and asylum seekers.
As politicians swing into election mode the Catholic Bishops of Australia are encouraging people not to vote according to self-interest but with a view to the common good. In their pastoral letter they draw attention to a range of issues such as respect for life, marriage and the family, child protection, poverty, health and education. The needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, refugees and asylum seekers are highlighted. Watch the video here:
World Day of Peace 2018 Message from Pope Francis Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Peace 2018 focuses on migrants’ and refugees’ search for peace. Hunger or persecution drive some while the possibility of a life in which they can pursue their full human development draws others. All are seeking peace. By contrast, Francis says that those who foment fear of migrants and refugees “are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia.” (n 3) His words certainly ring true here in Australia. Approaching the situation with a contemplative gaze, he sees not a threat, but rather an opportunity to build peace. People on the move remind us that we are one human family sharing a common home. Looking at our world in this manner, we see that migrants and refugees do not arrive “empty handed” (n 3). Rather they bring “their courage, skills, energy and aspirations” and the “treasures of their cultures” thus enriching “the lives of the nations that receive them” (n 3). Again, this is the Australian experience. Welcoming, Protecting & Including Migrants & Refugees Francis advocates a four-fold strategy of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees. We know that these are practical and positive strategies. After all, we have done each of them in different measures at different times in Australia. Our experience suggests one word of caution. In our public policy discourse, the word “integration” carries some strong negative connotations, especially for our First Peoples. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities the policy known as “integration” was little better than “assimilation lite.” They were the ones who were expected to integrate into and become part of another culture. Perhaps a better word for what Pope Francis is talking about would be “inclusion.” Being included is being recognised as part of the community, sharing rather than giving up, the treasures of one’s culture of origin. In this way we all become part of something new. Perhaps even a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1), already here and not yet complete? Global Compacts In 2018 two Global Compacts will be negotiated. One will be about migration and the other will concern refugees. They are important because they will provide the framework for policies and programs. Pope Francis and the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development call all Catholics to get involved in this process. They want the Compacts to be “inspired by compassion, foresight and courage” and to advance peace-building (n 5). Hence they offer Twenty Pastoral Action Points which provide a focus for action. Many of the points directly engage current Australian policies and practices. Time for Action in 2018 Communities of faith, social service agencies and social justice groups in Australia are actively working for change. For some it is a longstanding commitment. They are providing practical assistance to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and advocating for changes in policy. Furthermore they are seeking to change the way the community understands the story of people seeking peace and security. While we may already be active, Pope Francis challenges each one of us to consider how we might be involved in 2018. Read the full text Migrants and refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace
In a 13 October 2016 statement the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference calls on the Australian government to bring asylum seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island to Australia. Conference President, Archbishop Hart, got behind the Bring Them Here campaign: We endorse the campaign to Bring Them Here to Australia. We pledge the help of our Catholic communities and institutions to welcome and support these refugees when they arrive, including Catholic health, education and social services. The Bishops point out that far fewer asylum seekers arrive directly in Australia than in other nations. They express shame at “the expulsion and harsh treatment of the people who sought our protection only to be detained on Nauru and Manus Island.” Furthermore they draw attention to the appalling conditions under which asylum seekers live, lamenting “the effects on their health, spirits and self-respect.” How to Help Bring Them Here The Bishops ask Catholics in Australia who want to help to contact the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum, which brings together Catholic peak bodies across education, health, welfare, and the broader church along with key national Catholic organisations. Read the Full Statement The full statement is available here.
Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, Fr Maurizio Pettena calls for immediate action on the allegations made in the leaked Nauru files. The Nauru files detail numerous alleged incidents of physical and sexual abuse of detainees at Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre. Fr Pettena expressed “grave concern that more than half of the allegations involve children, even though they make up %18 of those in detention.” He also expressed concern about “the manner in which these allegations have been handled, in particular the downgrading of severity in allegations.” Fr Pettena called on the Australian Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton to take immediate action. He declared that “there has been a consistent decline in the mental and physical condition of refugees on Nauru.” Hence he demanded that “concrete action must be taken to improve conditions.” Meanwhile, community movements are calling for the asylum seekers to be brought to Australia. Speaking on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops, Fr Pettena made their position clear. He explains that it is not only the allegations made in the Nauru files that are of concern, but the whole policy regime. “The Catholic Church opposes mandatory detention and offshore detention because these policy responses do not respect the dignity of people seeking our help. It is imperative that the dignity of the human person must always come first. Governments have a responsibility to manage migration flows, but the Australian Government’s current approach is harsh and should change.” Read the Full Statement Read the full statement here.
Some Catholic Social Teaching Themes Integrating Principles, Criteria & Guidelines for Action Catholic Social Teaching themes bring together principles for reflection, criteria for judgement and guidelines for action. Often they address issues or particular areas of concern, such as work or the rights of indigenous peoples. They may also develop from the Church’s reflection on key concepts in the light of experience over time. For example, Catholic Social Teaching’s understanding of the role of structures in injustice or of the role of the state. Find out about: – A Preferential Option for the Poor – Civil Society & the State – The Death Penalty – Integral Ecology – Integral Human Development – People on the Move – Social Sin – Structures of Sin, Structures of Grace – The Rights of Indigenous Peoples A Preferential Option for the Poor Making a preferential option for the poor is a way of following the example of Jesus. It is an option in the sense of being a conscious choice to be in solidarity with those who are poor, marginalized or disrespected, and to work for structural change to transform the causes of poverty and marginalization. Our preferential option for the poor is a core commitment – it is not optional! It is preferential because through this option we give preference or priority in our love to those who are poor. Find out more… Civil Society & the State Catholic Social Teaching holds that the state exists to serve the human person by organizing and promoting the common good. As far back as Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII, 1891) the church taught that the state has a duty to intervene in economic and social life to defend the interests of those who cannot defend themselves. Political authority exists to serve people and communities. Find out more … The Death Penalty The death penalty is an extreme measure. In modern times Catholic Social Teaching has upheld the right of the State to use it only in very limited circumstances. Conditions for its acceptable use have been progressively tightened by recent Popes. Pope Francis now says that the death penalty is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it involves the wilful suppression of a human life. He has called for the content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this topic to be revised. Find out more … Integral Ecology The Catholic Social Teaching theme of integral ecology is becoming more urgent and important. Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, on care for our common home, stresses that everything is connected. This means that our approach to ecology must be holistic. Ecology goes beyond care for the natural environment. It embraces the vast network of relationships between all that is. Integral ecology requires “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Find out more … Integral Human Development Economic development alone is not enough to create a just society. People and communities have material needs, but human flourishing and wellbeing have spiritual, social, cultural and political dimensions too. Catholic Social Teaching takes a holistic or integral approach to development. It places people, rather than the economy, at the centre of development. Development is for people. We are made by God out of love and called to develop our God-given gifts, to grow as persons, and to seek our fulfilment. That is why we describe our thinking about development as integral and human. Find out more … People on the Move – Migrants, Refugees & Asylum Seekers Catholic Social Teaching approaches questions of human mobility from the point of view of human dignity rather than legal status or national interest. It’s key questions are not about legal obligations or defending sovereign territory, but rather how right relationships with self, God, others and creation, would call us – as individuals, communities, nations and international bodies – to respond to people on the move. Find out more about Catholic Social Teaching on refugees here. Find out more about Catholic Social Teaching on migration here. Social Sin – Structures of Sin & Structures of Grace Things, such as structures, can’t really sin. People sin, but our freedom to choose what is good can be influenced or conditioned by social structures, processes and institutions. Structures or situations can be described as sinful when they reflect, reinforce or even encourage personal sins. They make it harder to do what is right and good and easier to choose another path. Read a reflection by Sandie Cornish here Read a reflection by Bishop Peter Cullinane here. Consider the link between sexual abuse and structures of sin here. The Rights of Indigenous Peoples What does Catholic Social Teaching have to say about the rights of Indigenous peoples? In the Catholic human rights tradition, human rights and the duties that go with them are grounded in the dignity of the human person. They apply to all persons and all peoples in every kind of situation or type of activity. The rights of Indigenous peoples are human rights. Find out more …
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) has issued a statement urging Catholics to consider how they will vote in the Federal Election 2016. In it they pick up Pope Francis’ expression “thrown away people” highlighting the experiences of Indigenous Australians asylum seekers and refugees survivors of sexual abuse those who suffer family violence those in the womb the elderly those suffering mental illness those suffering addiction those entrapped in new forms of slavery and the desperately poor beyond our shores who look to us for help. Members of each of these groups have been “thrown away” or disregarded by Australian society and lack a loud voice in election debates. Catholics are urged to prayerfully listen to their needs and that of creation in considering how to vote. ACBC Statement for Election 2016 The four page statement is called A Vote for the Voiceless. It can be downloaded here.