Slight drop observed in latest Mass attendance figures

Despite a drop in the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass, more than 623,000 people attended Mass weekly in 2016

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge says it would be “naïve” to ignore the role the child sexual abuse crisis has played in a slight drop in Mass attendance figures in recent years.

But Archbishop Coleridge said it is also important to consider other reasons affecting the number of people regularly attending Mass across the country. Continue reading

Plenary Council is listening to 222,000 voices

Lana Turvey-Collins speaks with Western Australian Catholic secondary school leaders during the Listening and Dialogue stage of the Plenary Council (Photo courtesy of Catholic Education Western Australia)

Plenary Council 2020 president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB says he and his fellow bishops have been “amazed” by the engagement of people across Australia in the Council’s opening stage.

The Plenary Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase ended earlier this month, concluding a period of almost 10 months for people to share their stories and consider the question “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”

The National Centre for Pastoral Research has compiled statistical data and reported that more than 222,000 people participated in the Listening and Dialogue phase and made either individual submissions or had their voices captured through a group response.

“The bishops knew the time was ripe for a defining moment in the life of the Church like a Plenary Council. What we didn’t know is how the people of Australia would embrace a process that hasn’t taken place for more than 80 years,” Archbishop Costelloe.

“We have been thrilled and amazed by the generosity of people and their willingness to speak about their experiences within the Church – both positive and negative – and to invest such energy in this first stage of the process.”

Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said while she observed enthusiasm for the Council when she visited communities across Australia, she couldn’t have predicted that would translate into 220,000 people participating in the Listening and Dialogue phase.

“From the beginning, it has been clear that the success of the Council would depend largely on people’s level of engagement, but equally on the movement of the Holy Spirit,” she said.

“This unprecedented – and quite overwhelming – level of response shows the people of God in Australia are deeply interested in shaping the future of the Catholic Church in this country.”

National Centre for Pastoral Research director Trudy Dantis said the process of analysing the more than 17,000 individual and group submissions is under way. It will be completed over the next two months, with the national themes for discernment that have emerged to be announced in early June.

“Each submission will be read and analysed by our team of research experts and we will use some of the best research tools available to assist that analysis,” Dr Dantis said.

“Prayer and discernment is at the core of this process, particularly in this next stage of the journey, ensuring the Plenary Council is guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Ms Turvey-Collins said once the national themes for discernment have been identified, working groups will be established – following an application process open to all – to consider the submissions and help prepare discussion papers that will be published.

“Listening has been a critical part of this opening phase and as we move into the ‘Listening and Discernment’ phase, it is necessary that we all continue to listen to God and listen to each other to allow the Council to be a pivotal moment in the life of the Catholic Church in Australia,” she said.

Visit the Plenary Council website for more information at

Carmelites return to Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese

Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green has welcomed four Carmelites nuns to the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes (photo courtesy of Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese)

A humble, quaint old cottage surrounded by trees and wildlife in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes is now home to a new monastery of cloistered Carmelite nuns from the United States.

The shimmering heat and dust surrounding their cottage is a helpful reminder to the sisters that they are now part of Australia and that they need to pray for the people of the region, who are battling ongoing drought. Continue reading

Ecumenical gathering seeks to build bridges, connections

“Truth, Unity and Reconciliation” is the theme for a national meeting of Sudanese and South Sudanese Christian women leaders in Canberra this week.

The March 29-30 consultation process has been organised by the National Council of Churches Australia (NCCA) with 20 women selected from various faiths including Catholic, Uniting, Salvation Army, Lutheran, Anglican and Baptist churches. Continue reading

Catholic Church calls for living wage for Australian families

Neither employers nor governments are doing enough to support low-paid Australians, and particularly Australian families, the Catholic Church has told the Fair Work Commission.

The Church has made submissions on the minimum wage since 2003 with a focus on low-paid workers and their families, arguing for a decent standard of living for wage-dependent families.

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Bishops preparing for visit to tombs of the Apostles

The statue of St Peter is seen in front of St Peter’s Basilica. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Australia’s Catholic bishops will travel to Rome in June for their visit Ad Limina Apostolorum, culminating in prayer and Mass at the tombs of Sts Peter and Paul.

Bishops conferences from around the world typically make the Ad Limina Apostolorum visit, translated as “To the threshold of the Apostles”, every five years. However, with the change of Pope in 2013 and Ad Limina visits cancelled during the Year of Mercy, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has not made the visit since 2011.

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Church events mark International Women’s Day

Catholic communities throughout Australia are holding events today to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Andrea Dean, director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Office for the Participation of Women, said events included a Canberra breakfast with guest speakers, award ceremonies to recognise the contributions of women to the life and work of the Church and the expansion of a Catholic Women’s mentoring program.

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Listening and Dialogue ‘landmark moment’ for Church

While people were still sharing their stories of faith and of God with the Plenary Council last night and the final numbers won’t be known for a couple of weeks, the Council’s Listening and Dialogue stage is considered a “landmark moment” for the Catholic Church in Australia.

Plenary Council 2020 president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB expressed his gratitude for the faith, energy and generosity of people everywhere who have shared so honestly.

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Bishops acknowledge inspirational work of Catholic women

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day on Friday, the Catholic Bishops of Australia have acknowledged the inspirational work of women throughout the country who now make up 77 per cent of the Church’s workforce.

And with more than 65 per cent of leadership or lay ministry roles within the Church exercised by women, the work of women in Church structures and organisations has become increasingly critical.

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Pope’s leadership inspires community sector CEO

The teachings and concrete example of Pope Francis’ actions continue to inspire and inform the leadership style of Western Australian community service CEO Debra Zanella.

The Ruah Community Services CEO, who has 20 years’ experience in the community sector and is a strong advocate for vulnerable and disadvantaged people, spoke at the recent Stirring the Waters: Australian Catholic Women Responding to the Spirit colloquium in Adelaide.

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Church leaders pray for survivors, write to faithful

Catholic leaders are praying for survivors in the wake of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for historical sexual abuse, but also seeking to support their local communities.

Since the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement from its president, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, a number of bishops have written letters to their communities, acknowledging the ongoing legal process via an appeal, but also the range of emotions people are feeling.

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Church ready to help close disgraceful gap Indigenous people face

The bishop responsible for the Catholic Church’s engagement with Indigenous Australians says the Church is a key player in the country’s effort to address the sobering findings in the latest Closing the Gap report.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month acknowledged that just two of the seven Closing the Gap targets are on track to be achieved. The seven targets relate to health, education and employment outcomes.

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