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Archbishop Fisher tells student leaders to beware of ideological camps

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP answers questions of student leaders from across Sydney Catholic Schools at the first of three luncheons at Cathedral House. Photo: Giovanni Portelli/SCS

Christians should not accept “progressive” or “conservative” labels for themselves, but only strive to align themselves closely with Christ and his church, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP told young leaders at the annual student leadership luncheon.

Year 12 students of Sydney Catholic School’s eastern district met at Cathedral House to break bread and discuss their burning questions on faith and leadership with each other and their archbishop.

The lunch was the first of three to be hosted by Archbishop Fisher and Sydney Catholic Schools again this year.

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They provide student leaders with relaxed opportunities to speak with the spiritual leader about matters close to their hearts and to seek his advice, as well as meet with archdiocesan youth leaders.

Students from nearly 20 schools attended on 5 March, including one student from St Ignatius College in Riverview who inquired about the church’s capacity to remove “conservative” obligations in order to reflect the present “progressive” society and its changing values.

“I’d say to all, be careful of being pigeonholed into a camp of progressive or conservative,” the archbishop responded.

“These aren’t categories for Christians, we care simply about truth and people.

“If we do join a camp, then the only camp we join is Jesus’.

“We ask ourselves what he has said, what he would do and what he has demonstrated in his life, his church, and its traditions.

“When we do this, we can see some components of our faith are perennial and for every generation, while other aspects—as in any religion—are cultural elements or customs arisen at one stage or another that may be passing.”

Asked how modern Catholics can combat spiritual dryness and connect with God in prayer, the archbishop said that prayer is “just talking to a friend.”

“We should be both comfortable with formal prayers and also the spontaneous prayer that comes out of your heart,” he said.

“People at times can overcomplicate prayer, but I’m quite childish in mine just as a child with their parents.

“Bring God those simple needs in your heart—they are the easiest to express because they come so naturally to us as children of God.”

Marist Catholic College North Shore leaders Tyler Sestito and Carsten Muller said they had been nervous about meeting the archbishop but left with an inspired sense of hope.

“Listening to his responses on a range of difficult topics showed the archbishop is a very genuine and well-educated man, not just a church figure but also very approachable,” Carsten said.

“What I can take from his words today is certainly an illuminated idea of how to bring Christianity into our school and outer communities,” Tyler added.

The archbishop will continue the luncheon series over two more weeks, hosting the remaining Year 12 leaders in Sydney’s western and central regions.



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