A new era: 2001 in Review
By Kathleen Carmody
As Pope John Paul II closed the Holy Door to end the Jubilee Year, and the new millennium dawned, there was a sense of optimism and hope in the air. For Australians, particularly, still basking in the glow of the Sydney Olympics, the Centenary of Federation gave us something to celebrate.
However, as the year progressed and global events intruded into our lives, that hope began to evaporate. Acts of terrorism and war created a sense of fear and uncertainty that we’ve yet to shake.
Even before the tragic events of September 11 – and their aftermath – it had been an eventful year.
Sydney had gained a new archbishop, Dr George Pell, and farewelled its beloved archbishop of 18 years, Cardinal Edward Clancy.
We had celebrated 100 years of Federation and played host to World Day of the Sick celebrations, the first Vatican World Day event to be held in Australia.
Thousands of people gathered in Sydney’s Centennial Park on January 1 for the Centenary of Federation parade and celebrations, waving flags and cheering as the floats went by.
Schools and parishes throughout the nation held special events during the year to commemorate this most significant of Australian achievements, including dressing in period costume and reliving the first sitting of the Australian Parliament.
In June, a young student from Monte Sant’ Angelo, Hayley Eves, stole the nation’s heart when she spoke in front of 70,000 people at Centenary of Federation celebrations in Melbourne.
The Vatican World Day of the Sick celebrations in February provided the opportunity to recognise and reinforce the dignity of the frail, the sick and the dying in our society.
The Day was marked by a Solemn Mass and a two-day health conference which touched on such themes as the changing nature of the Catholic health ministry, and maintaining a Catholic ethos under pressure from demands for euthanasia, abortion and other health services that contravene Catholic values.
In March, Dr George Pell, then Archbishop of Melbourne, was appointed as the eighth Archbishop of Sydney. The choice of Archbishop Pell to preside at St Mary’s Cathedral, the mother church of Australian Catholicism, caused quite a stir in Sydney. He had gained a reputation for his forthright stance on moral issues while Archbishop of Melbourne.
The occasion of his installation in Sydney was a joyous one, marred only slightly by gay rights protesters.
More than 3,000 people turned out for the occasion, including the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the then Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley. Archbishop Pell promised to work hard to serve the community of Sydney effectively and to strengthen its faith and contribution to human development.
It was not without a twinge of sadness that Sydney Catholics said goodbye to Cardinal Clancy. The Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Mons Tony Doherty, paid tribute to the Cardinal at his farewell Mass, describing him as “a man of seamless integrity and of prodigious energy”. Cardinal Clancy had “gently shepherded the flock of Sydney through perhaps some of the most turbulent times in recent Church history”, he said.
Mons Doherty praised some of the Cardinal’s achievements as archbishop, including the reform of the Sydney diocese into three smaller, more personal dioceses, his management of the growth of Sydney’s Catholic schools, his sensitivity to the increasing multicultural character of Sydney and his “respect for individual differences in the people” to whom he had ministered.
The International Year of the Volunteer allowed us to pay tribute to the thousands of Australians, including the 40,000 St Vincent de Paul volunteers who offer their services to those less for-tunate in our society. And while the International Year of the Volunteer may be over, we won’t forget those selfless individuals who con-tinue to lend a helping hand to those who need it most.
On August 27, a boatload of refugees made international headlines when the Australian government refused to allow them to land on Christmas Island. The Norwegian ship, MV Tampa, which was carrying the 460 mainly Afghan refugees, had responded to an alert from Australia that a boat was sinking and picked up the crew, including women and children. The standoff lasted for four days, with the government refusing to budge on the issue. The asylum seekers were eventually taken for claims processing by the Pacific island of Nauru.
Church leaders weighed into the debate, calling for compassion and asking Australians to see the human face in the crisis.
The Catholic Weekly also entered the debate, with the majority of letters received expressing sympathy for the plight of the refugees.
On the heels of the Tampa incident came the event that rocked the world.
Australians awoke on September 12 to the news that the World Trade Centre in New York had been attacked by terrorists. More than 3,000 people had died when two hijacked passenger planes flew into the twin towers of what was New York’s tallest building, and a third plane into the Pentagon in Washington.
The Pope described the events as a “dark day in the history of humanity”.
Among the fear and terror, stories of heroism leaked out, including the tale of the Catholic fire chaplain, Fr Mychal Judge, who died administering the last rites to a firefighter. Australians and others around the world were inspired and moved by the bravery of police and firefighters at ‘ground zero’.
At a service in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Archbishop Pell led Catholic school students in prayer for all those affected by the terrorist attacks. He told them it was “a terrible lesson to you that evil and violence don’t belong only in nasty, escapist adventure films, but sometimes erupt in spectacular and destructive real life situations”.
He also warned against making scapegoats of the Islamic community.
Six archbishops and bishops were installed in dioceses across Australia, including four in NSW.
In June, Bishop Peter Ingham, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, was installed as Bishop of Wollongong after Bishop Philip Wilson left to take up his appointment as Archbishop of Adelaide. The new bishop promised to encourage people to “put fresh heart” into their faith.
On August 30, bishops and clergy from around Australia gathered in Parkes for the consecration of Fr Chris Toohey as the new Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes.
The down-to-earth priest – at 49 relatively young for a bishop – said he “was peaceful” about his new calling.
Then, on December 12, Coadjutor Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett was installed as Bishop of Lismore, succeeding 30-year incumbent Bishop John Satterthwaite.
Other significant installations were those of Bishop Denis Hart, administrator of the Melbourne Archdiocese, as Archbishop of Melbourne and Bishop Phillip Wilson as Archbishop of Adelaide.
Bishops from around the world, including Archbishop Pell, met at the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October to reflect on Church governance, ministry, teaching, spirituality and their own Church role.
Archbishop Pell was honoured by the Vatican in being one of the 12 bishops chosen to assist Pope John Paul in drafting the apostolic message following the Synod.
In November, social justice advocates welcomed Pope John Paul II’s historic apology for injustices perpetrated on Australia’s indigenous peoples by Church members.
In the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, resulting from the 1998 synod of Oceania, the Pope said that “the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples need to be honestly acknowledged”, and that “the Church expresses deep regret and asks forgiveness where her children have been or still are party to these wrongs”.
Now as the year draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate the joyous occasion of Christmas, let us draw inspiration from the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace on January 1:
“Since (September 11) people throughout the world have felt a profound personal vulnerability and a new fear for the future. Addressing this state of mind, the Church testifies to her hope … that by the grace of God, a world in which the power of evil seems once again to have taken the upper hand, will in fact be transformed into a world in which the noblest aspirations of the human heart will triumph, a world in which true peace will prevail.”