Freedom of religion is a fundamental value, Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay told the hundreds gathered to venerate a relic of their patron, Saint Maroun, on his feast day at the Cathedral named in his honour, in Redfern.
During the 9 February ceremony, the first-class relic of St Maroun, who is venerated around the world as patron of the Maronite Church, was officially welcomed to the Cathedral.
The relic of the fifth century saint—a portion of his skull—journeyed all the way from Lebanon to Sydney in early February and will be permanently housed at the Cathedral.
Receiving the 1600 year-old relic is “a great event” in the life of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia, Bishop Tarabay said. The relic was brought to Australia in the name of “faith in God, freedom and family,” he said.
Among the dignitaries joining Sydney’s Maronites to honour the spiritual father of their church were Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and all bishops of the archdiocese of Sydney, NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley and Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Bishop Tarabay reminded the congregation that Maronite Catholics originally migrated to Australia “to keep their freedom of faith and receive a better life.”
“It is a big challenge for the Maronite community, and for many other communities today, to again find their religious freedom under scrutiny in Australia, especially by those who are supposed to protect it.”
“Surprisingly both our Commonwealth government and even the Opposition, seem to be unconcerned about protecting religious freedom, as it is well noticed in the new legislation regarding marriage.”
“To lose our religious freedom, to mess with the natural family form of man, woman and possible children, it is and it will always be an aberration of the very nature marriage.”
“This situation defeats the very reason that led many people to immigrate and come to this land, including we Maronites.”
“Faith, freedom and family are fundamental principles in the establishment of Australian society and nation and no one should ignore the fact that they are under significant threat today.”
Following the Mass Bishop Tarabay blessed the newly completed Maronite seminary adjacent to the Cathedral—the first Maronite seminary in Australia.
He expressed his hope that many Maronite priests will be formed in the spirituality of St Maroun at the new seminary.