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Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann’s visit to Rome coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Holy See (Australian Embassy to the Holy See)

Aboriginal elder, educator and artist Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann will meet Pope Francis as the Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosts a series of events focused on reconciliation with Indigenous Australians.

Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro, announced Dr Ungunmerr Baumann’s visit to Rome as part of a series of events to be held on May 29 to June 3, during National Reconciliation Week. 

“This will be a unique opportunity to exchange perspectives on many priority issues for both Australia and the Holy See,” Ms Porro said.

“It will also be an emotive journey by one of our country’s most respected Indigenous leaders, and it stands to be an inspiration and an example that will resonate strongly with Aboriginal communities across Australia.

Dr Ungunmerr Baumann trained in a Catholic mission school in her rural community near Darwin and was the first fully-qualified Aboriginal teacher in the Northern Territory. Throughout her life, she has made an enormous contribution to education, environmental protection and the promotion of Indigenous culture and art, earning her the recognition of Senior Australian of the Year in 2021. 

Her presence in Rome will add special significance to a year that also marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Holy See.

The week’s main event on May 30 will be an evening reception at the Vatican Museums, where Dr Ungunmerr Baumann – whose art blends traditional Indigenous elements with Christian themes – will unveil a piece specially commissioned for the anniversary year. 

In addition to a private audience with the Pope, Dr Ungunmerr Baumann will also get a chance to meet senior figures from the Vatican, diplomats, and representatives of Catholic Church networks in Rome.

Cardinal Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, will also mark 50 years since the first Aboriginal Liturgy in Australia, held during the 40th International Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne in 1973, with a mass at Domus Australia in Rome.

Renowned Aboriginal elder journeys from the Australian bush to the Vatican to speak about faith, spirituality and reconciliation (Australian Embassy to the Holy See)