Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples so often live the name of mercy in their lives, Bishop Christopher Saunders stated as he launched the annual statement to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday on 3 July.
‘The peoples of Australia’s First Nations are famously resilient and in their own words they are survivors. Notwithstanding the vagaries of government policy or the faulty efforts at work to close the gap, or the dreadful prejudices evident in racist attitudes so notoriously on display even in the public forum in recent times, Aboriginal and Islander Peoples so often live the name of mercy in their lives.’
Representing the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (BCATSIP), Bishop Saunders also launched a new brochure ‘Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners 2016’ as a guide for parishes and Catholic organisations to use when hosting an event or service.
The theme of this year’s statement is how We Need Mercy. ‘Pope Francis tells us that humanity is deeply wounded and for this reason is in need of mercy, a mercy proclaimed by God and tenderly shared among people.’
‘The word “encounter” used so frequently by Francis demonstrates that the Mercy proclaimed in this Jubilee Year is not a one-way street. Our meeting with Christ Francis tells us is authentically an encounter.
‘It is an exchange in which the outpouring of a generous love made present in Christ evokes in us a loving response, given freely and generously.
‘In the merciful love we experience in this Godly encounter we have the opportunity to embrace those around us who perhaps are not coping or who are weighed down with the terrible disappointments of life.
‘The Church we belong to, Francis tells us, is a “field hospital”, which serves people in need of healing. However, it is each of us singularly and all of us collectively who are capable of being ministers to our brothers and sisters in need. And there-in lies the challenge.’
Praying for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Bishop Saunders asked that ‘in their prayers and in their loving communion may they continue to enrich the Church in Australia so that it will be fully the Church that Jesus Christ wants her to be’.
As we celebrate this Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday in 2016, so we might echo with one voice the thoughts in psalm 66: ‘Let The Earth Cry Out To God With Joy And Compassion For All’.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) in partnership with BCATSIP have created a parish kit to celebrate ASTI Sunday.
BCATSIP is also distributing copies of the ‘Welcome to Country’ DL brochure for parishes to use.