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Intercultural Mass: Splendid and diverse

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Celebrated each year on migrant and refugee Sunday, the Intercultural Mass is among the most splendid, diverse and eye-opening events of the liturgical year, showcasing the global nature of the church in Australia. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2023

Australia has been changed for the better by each generation of migrants and refugees who have seen this nation as a “beacon of freedom,” Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv said at the 2023 Intercultural Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 18 June.

Celebrated each year on migrant and refugee Sunday, the Intercultural Mass is among the most splendid, diverse and eye-opening events of the liturgical year, showcasing the global nature of the church in Australia.

Bishop Long concelebrated the Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral with the Archdiocese of Sydney’s episcopal vicar for migration, Fr Roland Maurer EV, and clergy who minister to a variety of Sydney’s migrant communities.

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Choirs from the Samoan and Tongan communities led the singing, and the prayers of the faithful were prayed in Tagalog, Vietnamese, Spanish, Fijian and Tongan.

The Gospel and offertory processions were highlights of the service, with music, dancing and chants from the Fijian men as they processed the Gospel down the aisle of St Mary’s Cathedral.

The offertory also saw graceful dancing from the ladies of the Tongan community as they brought the bread and wine to the altar for the Eucharist.

In his homily Bishop Long said the diverse communities that make up the Catholic Church in Australia had come together in a spirit of gratitude.

“We’re here to give thanks to God for this great country, that has been a welcoming home for us, who have come from a diversity of backgrounds and circumstances. Australia has enriched us, as it has been a beacon of freedom for many,” Bishop Long said.

“In fact, ever since the convict era, and perhaps ever since the Dreamtime of our first nations people, the history of this country has been about the triumph of the human spirit.”

Commenting on the reading from Exodus 19:2-6, Bishop Long said that the Exodus was not just a physical escape by the Israelites from suffering and slavery, but a challenge to the status quo. “In the miracle of the manna from heaven, and water from the rock, God shows them that he could act outside Pharaoh’s system: the system of greed, of monopoly, of oppression,” he said.

“And that system was dismantled; that system had been replaced by the new ‘kingdom vision.’ The Exodus therefore is not just a physical escape, but a journey of transformation.

“The Israelites are to become a kingdom of priests and a consecrated nation. In other words, they are no longer influenced by the grab-all-you-can mentality.

“The imperial way of dominance, superiority, and a zero-sum game has no more stranglehold on them.

Australia is what it is today because of our love: the migrants, the refugees, the asylum seekers’ love of freedom and fundamental human values.”

“They are now called to a new and moral society that witnesses to the God who goes out of his way to care for the downtrodden and the dispossessed.”

Bishop Long reflected further on the “gratitude and even pride” he felt in Australia when it embraced thousands of Vietnamese refugees fleeing the fall of Saigon.

“Australia changed for the better, as it has always done so with each successive wave of immigrants,” he said.

The offertory also saw graceful dancing from the ladies of the Tongan community as they brought the bread and wine to the altar for the Eucharist. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2023

“Australia is what it is today because of our love: the migrants, the refugees, the asylum seekers’ love of freedom and fundamental human values. Australia is what it is today because of our determination and our drive for a better future.

“And so, we honour the legacy of this great nation. Not by excessive protectionism, isolation and defence of our privilege at all costs.

“Rather, by our concern and care for others—especially for migrants, newcomers, the vulnerable among us, in the spirit of compassion and solidarity that has marked our country from its inception.”

Kylie Cullen, manager of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Catholic immigration office, said the Intercultural Mass was a “showcase of what our church has to offer.”

“Once again, it was an absolute joy to prepare the annual Mass celebrating Interculturality in Sydney and Parramatta,” she said.

“Having all cultures come together to share in the Eucharist filled my heart with joy. Our church has so much richness and it is days like today that bring that to light. “So many groups spent so many weeks preparing songs, the Gospel procession and the offertory. It was a real showcase of what our church has to offer.

“I thank everyone who participated, from the readers, those who wore their cultural outfit, the youth and the choir.

“This year’s migrant and refugee week has Finding Freedom as its theme. I believe that we all tasted that freedom on Sunday.”

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