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NSW MP Hugh McDermott meets Pope Francis in Rome on 25 August, 2022. Photo: Vatican News
NSW MP Hugh McDermott meets Pope Francis in Rome on 25 August, 2022. Photo: Vatican News

Pope Francis discusses the challenges of refugees in city’s west with local MP

Pope Francis showed a concern for people living in western Sydney, especially Christians who have fled persecution in their native countries, says Hugh McDermott the state member for Prospect.

The Labor MP recently travelled to the eternal city on a private trip to attend a meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network, a non-partisan organisation that brings together Catholic politicians from throughout the world to promote dialogue and understanding.

He said an additional opportunity for a 15-minute private audience with Pope Francis on 25 August was one of the highlights of his life.

“We talked about the challenge of building a new life in Australia and the difficulties still faced by those Catholics and Christians in their former home countries.”

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“The Holy Father and I discussed our multi-cultural faith community in western Sydney, especially those who have fled persecution for their Christian faith in the Middle East, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and other places,” he said.

“We talked about the challenge of building a new life in Australia and the difficulties still faced by those Catholics and Christians in their former home countries.

“He also raised the theme of using my role as a parliamentarian to advance justice, fraternity and peace in the current geopolitical environment.”

The Pope was familiar with details of the challenges faced and some of the work Mr McDermott had done this year to support migrant and refugee families.

Children belonging to Fairfield’s Syriac refugee community enjoy dinner at the parish during the Soup 4 Soul program. PHOTO: Our Lady of the Rosary

“We talked about how I decided my vocation is to represent these people who have such diverse backgrounds and to be their voice and how I could use my voice in parliament to also help them to rebuild their lives and help those in their home countries who are still facing persecution,” he said.

“I’m also proud to be a voice for the very Christian values which are important to my community, which are not very popular more generally today, and which they want to very vocal about as we’ve seen in their opposition to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage in recent debates.”

The Prospect electorate includes parts of Blacktown, Eastern Creek, Greystanes, Pendle Hill and Smithfield and contains one of the state’s highest proportion of Catholics at 34.8 percent.

“Pope Francis addressed the gathering telling them that the world needs lawmakers who are inspired by love and dedicated to serving the most vulnerable.”

Mr McDermott said his faith and Catholic social teaching has guided his life and parliamentary career.

He appreciates being part of the legislators global network, as many face similar challenges in their countries including human rights abuses and efforts to legislate abortion and euthanasia, and active persecution of Christians or softer efforts to repress a Christian perspective and presence for example by restricting access or misrepresentation in the media.

Pope Francis addressed the gathering telling them that the world needs lawmakers who are inspired by love and dedicated to serving the most vulnerable.

“I encourage your ongoing efforts, on the national and international levels, to work for the adoption of policies and laws that seek to address, in a spirit of solidarity, the many situations of inequality and injustice threatening the social fabric and the inherent dignity of all people,” he said.

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