Victoria: Delegation visits Melbourne

A delegation from the Vatican Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue (PCID) is currently in Australia, visiting Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne to meet members from Australia’s interreligious communities. The delegation includes Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot MCCJ, the Council Secretary and an expert in Islam; Monsignor Indunil Kodithuwakku, who follows relations with the Buddhists, Shinto and Confucianists; Monsignor Santiago Michael, who follows relations with the Hindus, Sikhs and Jains; and Fr Markus Solo SVD, who follows relations with Muslims in Asia and Pacific.


The Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese (EIC) developed a full program for the Delegation’s visit to Melbourne from 22-24 September. It included, among other events, a dinner for Victorian religious community leaders and leaders in interfaith relations in Victoria, and a seminar at which the Delegation will have the opportunity to hear from members of Victoria’s religious communities about the interreligious relationships in Victoria and what they desire from their dialogue with the Catholic Church. In addition to this, there was a consultation with the Catholic leadership, visits to Catholic parishes in multi-ethnic areas, visits to the temples, shrines and mosques of the other religious communities in Victoria, a meeting with the Australian Catholic University leadership, and a meeting with leaders in Catholic Education.

The three-day visit to Melbourne began on Saturday, when the delegation met Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Peter Comensoli, Auxiliary Bishops Terence Curtin and Peter Elliot and members of Melbourne’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Committee. This was followed by a welcome dinner with guest leaders from other religious communities.

The delegates were also provided with insights into Melbourne’s multicultural parish communities, visiting St Joseph’s in Boronia, St Paul the Apostle in Endeavour Hills, the Janssen Centre for Spirituality and the Chaldean Catholic Parish in Cambellfield .

At a public consultation session, the delegation invited leaders from the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities to discuss their hopes and concerns for the life of their religious communities in Australia.


 Above: Interfaith Public Consultation (Image Courtesy of Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission)

The tour concluded yesterday with visits to various faith communities in Melbourne, including the West Melbourne Mosque and the Quang Minh Temple in Braybrook, followed by lunch with representatives from the Australian Catholic University’s Faculty of Theology and Philosophy.


 Above: Bishop Ayuso with members of the Islamic Council of Victoria (Image Courtesy of Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission)


Above: Monsignor Indunil Kodithuwakku and Fr Geoff McIlroy with Buddhist monks, nuns and lay community of Quang Minh Temple

At the lunch, Rev Associate Professor John Dupuche and Dr Anita Ray ACU spoke about the work of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Interreligious Dialogue and the Comparitive Theology Group at ACU.

Bishop Ayoso spoke about the importance of interreligious work with young people and praised the initiatives at ACU.

‘It’s very important we work with young people. Young people don’t want us to tell them what to do, they want to work with us. Unfortunately, many educated young people are drawn to extremism and we have to work with them to make sure they understand extremism is not the way,’ he said.

The visit concluded at the Catholic Leadership Centre, where a gathering of education representatives considered the proposed Archdiocesan Guidelines for Interreligious Education in Catholic Schools. The session was also attended by Canberra Archbishop Christopher Prowse and Principal of Our Lady of Sion Box Hill Tina Apostolopoulos.

‘I am happy to have visited Australia,’ said Bishop Ayuso.

‘I have seen this good will, this good collaboration, this good ground of understanding, exchange also at a theological level because I have just come from the Australian Catholic University and I have seen the riches of the achievement in this past ten years, it is magnificent what has been done,’ he explained.

‘As Pope Francis says the dialogue needs respect and friendship and to do this we need to promote a culture of tenderness and this tenderness is to be kind together to think of action – what can we do to do good in the world to work for the common good. And this is beautiful because we are really respecting every human life and then in heart we have a sense of belonging, too. And this brings real satisfaction and happiness from the Catholic point of view.

‘It is a real joy to live the gospel by opening ourselves to the others and inviting others. It’s a good exercise. I hope that our readers may renew their commitment to be a community together and deepen relationships with different believers,’ encouraged Bishop Ayuso.

The visit has been insightful for the Delegates and has ‘put the Catholic Church in Australia on the map for interreligious dialogue and community connection,’ said David Schütz, Executive Officer of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission.

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