Fifty years after nearly 30,000 people flocked to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne to celebrate the first Aboriginal Liturgy during the 1973 Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Arthur Roche of the Dicastery for Divine Worship joined Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumannn AM and senior Australian Catholics at Domus Australia to celebrate the church’s ongoing journey towards reconciliation.
Cardinal Roche was joined at the altar by the rector of Domus Australia, Fr Robert Hayes, and Frs Frank Brennan SJ, David Holcroft SJ, Ben McKenna SM, and the procurator-general to the Columban Fathers in Rome, Fr Robert McCulloch.
The Australian ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro, welcomed guests to Domus Australia and attracted diplomatic representatives from Britain, Lithuania, France, Malaysia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Cardinal Peter Turkson was also in attendance, as were Sydney priests Frs Bijoy Joseph and Sebastian Hew, and members of religious orders living in Rome. Students form the Pontifical North American College and the Beda College assisted in serving the Mass.
Cardinal Roche wore Fr Brennan’s ordination vestments, sewn by his mother in the 1980s, featuring a reproduction of her artwork “God with us down on the Daly.”
The image was also selected to represent Australia’s embassy to the Holy See, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann explained the meaning of the artwork, which is displayed in St Francis Xavier’s parish church, Nauiyu Nambiyu on the Daly River, in the Northern Territory.
“The basic design is that of a chalice with, above and behind it, a cross and between the two, an outstretched hand supporting the host,” Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann’s artist’s statement read.
“Superimposed on the cross is the dove, the Spirit of God, under whose outspread wings are the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament which merge into the one law of the New Testament given us at the hand of Christ—the law of love.
“This law, and the peace and unity its observance brings, is communicated to all peoples of diverse nation and colour by the proclamation of the gospel—represented here by the four fingers of the hand.
“The middle finger is accentuated to show that through Christ, who is the way, the Holy Spirit directs us into a small but complete wholeness (represented by the small oval at the finger’s tip).
“This wholeness, this unity will be perfected only in God the Trinity (symbolised by the triangle forming the base of the chalice).
The white dots on the painting, representing union with God, takes place through the sacrifice on the cross and is renewed through the Eucharist, Dr Ungunmerr-Baumannn wrote.
“This takes place in the community without barriers—the church (whose twelve-fold foundation, the apostles, supports the base of the chalice).”
A reception was held in the crypt following Mass for the guests, who providentially also numbered 50.
“The Domus staff again excelled in the reception that was provided and very positive comments were made about the staff and the various foods that were presented,” Fr Hayes said.
The Mass was an important part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, which were held during reconciliation week.
Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann was a prized speaker in Rome during her trip, giving lectures on education and dadirri, or deep listening, alongside senior Vatican officials.
She met the Holy Father at his General Audience on 31 May, and according to Fr Brennan the former principal of St Francis Xavier’s school was “delighted” that Pope Francis preached on St Francis Xavier.
A visit was also paid to the church of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, where Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann visited the site where the Aboriginal monk Francis Conaci was buried.