Former boat person installed as fourth Bishop of Parramatta

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Parramatta’s new bishop, Bishop Vincent Long van Nguyen OFM Conv, says that he aspires to lead the Church out of its current, partly self-inflicted exile and to accompany people in the direction of the Kingdom.

Thousands turned out on 16 June at St Patrick’s Cathedral – family, friends, and members of Parramatta’s numerous ethnic communities, as well as hundreds of bishops, priests and religious – to see Bishop Long installed as the fourth bishop of the diocese.

In introductory remarks, the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Bishop Long’s immediate predecessor in the see, said that the times called for bishops “of faith and compassion, of courage and mercy” and that Pope Francis had “expressed confidence that Bishop Vincent is the man for this job”.

“I have known Vincent since seminary days and can assure the priests and people of Parramatta that they are receiving a shepherd after the heart of the Good Shepherd,” Archbishop Fisher told the gathering, which extended to a large canopy in the grounds of the cathedral.

The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, read the papal mandate appointing Bishop Long to the role in which he will minister to one of the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse dioceses in Australia, with some 330,000 Catholics and a population of more than a million souls.

In his homily, Bishop Long said that – more than ever – the Church had to demonstrate its love for people who felt marginalised and excluded, particularly in the light of its gross failure to protect children from sexual abuse at the hands of paedophile priests.

“To say that we are at a critical juncture is probably an understatement,” Bishop Long said.

“What we are witnessing as the people of faith is the flood of secularisation that has washed away much of the Church we’ve known and loved. We have been battered and bruised. We’ve been reduced in numbers and status. What is more, we have to admit with the greatest humility that we have not lived up to that fundamental ethos of justice, mercy and care for those who have been hurt by our own actions and inactions …

“I’d like to think of this critical juncture as analogous to the biblical exile to which as a former refugee I have a personal affinity,” this bishop said, referring to his own experience as a Vietnamese boat person who arrived here as a refugee, via Malaysia, in 1981.

“The exile was about facing the death of the old and giving birth to the new. The biggest lesson they learned was seeking God’s justice for the poor and the lowly. They learned to be a society in which the care of the most marginalised was to be the essential distinguishing feature.”

He said he would “like to think of my role as that of the prophets who accompany their people in the exile, point to them the signs of the new Kairos and lead them in the direction of the kingdom”.

He was committed to making the Church in Parramatta “the house for all peoples . . . an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity”.

Guests included the second Bishop of Parramatta, Bishop Kevin Manning, and Fr Peter Williams, who has been the administrator of the diocese for the past 19 months and whom Archbishop Fisher acknowledged for his service.