Church must stand up for 'weakest and poorest'

Phil Glendenning delivers keynote address (melbournecatholic)

Refugees and asylum-seekers are not just numbers, but real people, and the cruelty against them under current government policies must stop, the Catholic Social Services national conference has heard. Source: melbournecatholic.org.au.

More than 200 Catholic and community leaders gathered in Melbourne for an opening keynote address by Phil Glendenning AM to launch the first day of the Hearing, Healing and Hope conference.

As Director of the Edmund Rice Centre and President of the Refugee Council of Australia, Mr Glendenning’s address explored the mistreatment of Indigenous and Torres Strait Island peoples, the 24 million refugees throughout the world, as well as victims of institutional sexual abuse.

“History happened here,” said Mr Glendenning, after recognising the traditional custodians of the land and thanking the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry’s Acknowledgement of Country. “Much of that history remains unfinished business, unreconciled.

“And as the old saying goes, if we do not learn from the sins of our history, we are bound to repeat them.

“As a nation, repeat them we have, for too long and too often—not just with regard to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, our First Peoples, but also to the last to arrive, people seeking asylum and refugees.”

Mr Glendenning then turned attention to hearing and healing in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.

“I believe that this post-royal commission time offers a real opportunity for liberation and redemption for the Church in Australia. The truth sets us free, and this ugly truth had been hidden for too long,” he said.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is to reflect on the leadership required to address the need for root and branch reform in the Church, and in our wider society, to ensure that what we have heard over the past five years, can never happen again.”

Mr Glendenning said the world’s “24 million refugees, the population of Australia, are not just numbers. They are human beings. They are brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers, friends, they are children. More than half are children”.

He said human beings should never be used as a means to an end and that the wrongs and cruelty experienced by refugees and people seeking asylum must stop.

Mr Glendenning said that the Catholic Church needs to act with society in mind and stand up for the weakest, the poorest and minorities. A failure to do so, he declared, would be “a sad replication of the Church Jesus wants us to be”.

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Hearing, healing and hope: Rousing keynote opens conference (melbournecatholic.org.au)

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