In a ceremony rich with Catholic tradition and Aboriginal culture, the Diocese of Darwin on Wednesday night welcomed Bishop Charles Gauci as its new shepherd.
In June, Pope Francis announced that Fr Charles Gauci, then-administrator of St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide, would succeed Bishop Eugene Hurley, who had served in Darwin for the past 11 years.
Pope Francis’ ambassador to Australia, Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, read the apostolic mandate from the Holy Father, announcing Bishop Gauci’s appointment. Bishop Hurley served as principal consecrator at an overflowing St Mary’s Star of the Sea Cathedral.
In his homily, Bishop Hurley welcomed Bishop Gauci to the Diocese, but also reminded him of the task that lies ahead. Bishop Hurley said trust between the people and the Church in Darwin has been built over more than a century.
“This is a sacred trust, well-earned, but it brings with it a grave responsibility to walk with the people as a good shepherd must,” he said.
“Our diocesan family consists of people from almost every part of the world. Many of these people, dislocated from their own culture and homeland, look to the Church for comfort and reassurance. They will look to you as their bishop for understanding and support.”
Bishop Hurley said that the special bond between the Catholic Church in the Northern Territory and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a privilege, but there are also significant duties.
“The trust, reverence and love shown by our Aboriginal sisters and brothers over such a long time are sacred, and demand an equal commitment from the Church and from you as bishop,” he told Bishop Gauci.
“You will need to listen carefully, observe closely and walk humbly with them as you assess the situation which confronts them.
“You will find that they need your support and your voice as they search for proper housing, dignified employment and an urgent review of the heartbreaking rate of incarceration of our Aboriginal sisters and brothers, particularly the young people.”
Earlier this week, speaking with ACBC MediaBlog, Bishop Gauci spoke of his commitment to responding to those challenges, among others.
“When I visited the Indigenous people a few days ago, it was an eye-opener for me – their hopefulness, their warmth and their need to be connected spiritually,” he said.
“I think to myself, ‘I need to learn from these people’. I’m sure the Indigenous people can teach us a lot.”
Bishop Hurley said despite the geographical size of the Diocese of Darwin – more than three times the size of France – there remains a closeness.
“Even though the Diocese is vast, we have a strong and abiding sense that we are a diocesan family, united in faith and united in care and love of one another, however far apart we might be,” he said.
“This is an exciting and joyful time for all of us. Welcome to the diocese. Welcome among us as a bishop. Welcome among us as our bishop.”
At the conclusion of his ordination Mass, Bishop Gauci declared: “I am now a Territorian – and very, very glad to be here as one of you.”
He expressed his desire to follow the example of Bishop Hurley, who has been “such a good bishop, so loved”, and in “continuing to build the Body of Christ” in the Diocese of Darwin.