Pope Francis has appointed Dr Maria Harries AM as an independent auditor at the 14th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place at the Vatican in Rome next month. This means Dr Harries will contribute to the Synod discussions on the family as a Catholic laywoman.
Dr Harries is Chair of Catholic Social Services Australia and a member of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.
She will join Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, and Bishop of Darwin, Eugene Hurley, who were elected to represent the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at the Ordinary Synod on the Family.
Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal George Pell, will also attend the Synod, which takes place from 4 – 25 October 2015.
Dr Harries is a social work consultant in private practice, an adjunct professor at Curtin University and a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia, Dr Harries has worked with a number of state and national organisations involved with mental health, child, adult and family welfare.
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart congratulated Dr Harries on her appointment during the Synod. ‘The appointment of Dr Harries by Pope Francis is great news for the Catholic Church in Australia. I welcome the news given the long history of professional and academic work carried out by Dr Harries in the area of marriage and relationships.’
‘During her career, Dr Harries has held various leadership roles in the mental health, community and social services sector,’ Archbishop Hart added.
Upon hearing the announcement, Dr Harries said, ‘I am humbled by the confidence placed in me by the Australian Catholic Bishops and lay leaders across the church in Australia’.
‘I hope to make a contribution to the discussion on a topic, which I have dedicated my life to learning about, and one that is vitally important for individuals and society,’ she added.
From 2002 – 2012, Dr Harries was the inaugural chair of MercyCare in Western Australia, a non-governmental organisation that overseas the work of the Mercy Hospital, Mercy Aged Care, Mercy Community, Family and Youth Services.
Dr Harries has written extensively on the issue of child protection and social policy. She co-authored a book this year about ‘Working Ethically in Child Protection’ and co-wrote a paper last year about child welfare policy-making.
Archbishop Coleridge and Bishop Hurley will be providing updates during the Synod offering their insights into this important event. These updates will be available on the ACBC website www.catholic.org.au
A full list of participants at the Synod is available from the Vatican: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2015/09/15/0676/01469.html
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