An event that inspired the faith of countless in the nation
The Archdiocese of Sydney marked the 50th Anniversary of the visit of Pope Saint Paul VI to Australia in 1970 – the first ever papal visit to Oceania.
Pope Saint Paul VI visited Sydney – including St Mary’s Cathedral- on 30 November to 3 December 1970 during the Asia-Pacific leg of what was to be his final international tour.
Many people in Sydney were there
The visit was an event that inspired the faith of countless in the nation – including the future Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP who was a boy at the time.
“I was ten years old and attended my first papal Mass at Randwick,” said Archbishop Fisher on social media.
“It was very exciting. There are many people in Sydney who were there also and so I am able to say to them: that’s the first time we went to Mass together.”
Since his canonisation, Australia has welcomed the presence of four known saints Saint Mary MacKillop, Pope Saint Paul VI, Saint Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Saint John Paul II the Great.
The unique heritage of Australia’s cultural diversity
Upon his visit. Pope Saint Paul VI recognised the unique heritage of Australia’s cultural diversity- especially in the context of post-war migration whereupon he paid respects to Australia’s Jewish community.
Pope Saint Paul VI also met with First Nations delegates from the Northern Territory where he paid respects to the culture of Indigenous Australia.
He paid respects to the culture of Indigenous Australia
“We know that you have a lifestyle proper to your own ethnic genius or culture- a culture which the Church respects and which she does not in any way ask you to renounce,” said Paul VI.
“The Church proclaims that you, like all other ethnic minorities, have all human and civic rights – in every way the equal of those in the majority.”
The Pope’s message came in the context of Aboriginal Australians being only recently acknowledged in the Australian census and subsequently given voting rights in 1967.
Drawing upon his skills as a diplomat, Paul VI was the first pope to leave Italy since 1809 and was the first pope in office to visit the Holy Land since Saint Peter whereupon he met with the then Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras I.
“I pray for many more such visits in the years ahead,” said Archbishop Fisher.
He was also the first pope to visit the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and East Asia. Upon his death in 1978 he was the most-travelled pope in history, earning the nickname “the Pilgrim Pope” a pattern be continued – and indeed superseded- by his successors Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
God-willing, when the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, there will be more papal visits down-under. “I pray for many more such visits in the years ahead,” said Archbishop Fisher.