Australian diplomat offers insight into the papacy

Melissa Hitchman (The Catholic Leader/Mark Bowling)

Australia’s first woman ambassador to the Holy See, Melissa Hitchman, has described Pope Francis’s papacy as a “unique moment in history”. Source: The Catholic Leader.

“He is willing to dialogue on issues that the Church has previously not been prepared to do,” Ms Hitchman said at the start of a mid-term tour during which she will be speaking with Australian Catholic leaders and agencies and reporting on progress during the first half of her three-year posting.

Ms Hitchman said Pope Francis had a clear message to send, and was not afraid to be “the voice of the voiceless” on issues such as migrants and refugees, climate change, and even some of the more controversial issues facing the international community.

“He’s showing a courage, and values-based leadership,” Ms Hitchman said.

She described an historic set of circumstances linking Australia and the Holy See.

“I’m delighted to be there at this moment in history,” she said. “It is a great congruence with our foreign policy and the Holy See’s policy, which is only limited by imagination and resources,” Ms Hitchman said.

“Australia and our partners in the international community have much in common in terms of service to humanity and the global commons, and so we are able to partner with him (Pope Francis) in a way that maybe we aren’t with other global leaders in the world today.

“He is making a difference, and populations are looking for that leadership, someone who they can turn to who can articulate a sense of values. And we are delighted to be able to work with him on that.”

After briefing the Federation of the Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania, Ms Hitchman flew to Brisbane, where she spoke to clergy and seminarians at the Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, Banyo.

“I have come directly from the Oceania bishops’ conference in Port Moresby … and I was the only woman in a room of about one hundred men there, and I think if I did nothing else, I achieved that,” she said. It was part of a speech, in which the career diplomat and mother described her efforts to lift the profile of Australia’s Holy See mission, encourage the participation of women and promote indigenous culture.


Australian ambassador to the Holy See gives insight into Vatican life during first visit to Queensland seminary (The Catholic Leader)

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