Difference welcomed at Multicultural Mass

Some Sydney Catholics with Apostolic Visitor Bishop Georges Casmoussa of Syrian Catholics in Australia at St Mary’s Cathedral. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Catholics are called to be bridge-builders, not wall builders, between people of different cultures Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has told a colourful congregation at St Mary’s Cathedral.

The faithful from every continent of the world were represented at the annual Archdiocesan Multicultural Mass on 17 February. Archbishop Fisher gave his homily before a full cathedral at the Mass which was also attended by several religious and civic leaders.

See related story: Fear becomes sin when it leads to hostility towards migrants, Pope says

He shared some thoughts about the unity in diversity that is multicultural Australia, “the many ways we are enriched by our diverse histories and cultures” as well as the challenged posed by these differences.

“I’m one of the 49 percent of Aussies born overseas or with a parent born overseas. I’m a ‘bitsa’, a ‘mongrel’, and I dare say I’m related to you all,” said the Archbishop, explaining that he had ancestors and relatives from every continent.

The special Mass was a celebration of intercultural achievements as a Church and community, he said.

The Gospel is brought up in procession by members of Sydney’s Fijian community. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“Yet for all our pride, we know our country frequently hardens its heart to outsiders who would like to share our great land,” he added.

“On his way to World Youth Day in Panama recently, Pope Francis told reporters that fear of migrants and refugees today is distorting the judgment of leaders and citizens, indeed ‘making us crazy’.”

At World Youth Day, Archbishop Fisher said, the Pope challenged young people to be ‘builders of a culture of encounter’ by which love conquers differences.

“The Holy Father went on to challenge our young people – and those of us who are a little older – to keep being bridge builders rather than wall builders,” he added.

“He prayed that we might be a community ‘that does not stigmatise the immigrant or condemn the refugee as a threat’, but rather one that ‘welcomes, protects, promotes and integrates’.”

Children praying
Young members of Sydney’s German community at St Mary’s Cathedral. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

The Mass to celebrate interculturality at St Mary’s Cathedral was hosted by the Sydney archdiocese’s Catholic Immigration Office and concelebrated by Episcopal Vicar for Migration Fr Isidore Anantharaj with around 30 migrant chaplains.

This year the traditional flag ceremony at the beginning of the Mass was dropped in solidarity with the Karin people of Myanmar and other groups who are stateless, said the office’s Kylie Cullen VDMF.

“The day was a great success and it was really lovely to have the support of civic leaders including Lesley Dalton of the Department of Home Affairs, and the High Commissioners of Zambia and Uganda,” she said.

Mass was followed by a fiesta in the Cathedral College Hall featuring Filipino, Ugandan, Vietnamese, German, Tongan, Syriac Catholic, Sudanese, Samoan and Korean traditional dance and song.

The Sydney archdiocese is home to more than 30 priest chaplains who provide spiritual and pastoral care for 27 migrant communities.