An Australian child protection and social policy expert will join Pope Francis and church leaders from around the world at the Vatican next month for the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
Catholic lay woman Dr Maria Harries is chair of Catholic Social Services Australia and a member of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.
She will join the Archbishop of Brisbane, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, and the Bishop of Darwin, Bishop Eugene Hurley, who will represent the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at the Ordinary Synod on the Family.
The prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy and former Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, will also attend the Synod, which takes place from 4 – 25 October 2015.
Dr Harries is a social work consultant in private practice, an adjunct professor at Curtin University and a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia. She has worked with a number of state and national organisations involved with mental health, child, adult and family welfare.
Her appointment was “great news for the Catholic Church in Australia”, said the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart.
“I welcome the news given the long history of professional and academic work carried out by Dr Harries in the area of marriage and relationships.’
“During her career, Dr Harries has held various leadership roles in the mental health, community and social services sector.”
Dr Harries said she was “humbled by the confidence” placed in her by Church leaders.
“I hope to make a contribution to the discussion on a topic, which I have dedicated my life to learning about, and one that is vitally important for individuals and society.”
Dr Harries has written extensively on the issue of child protection and social policy.
Earlier this year she co-authored the book Working Ethically in Child Protection, last year co-wrote a paper about child welfare policymaking.