Bishops’ statement calls for ‘new engagement’ with First Peoples

Australia’s Catholic bishops have called on the nation to seek “a new engagement” with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their annual Social Justice Statement being launched today.

Since the 1940s, the bishops have published annual statements that urge the Catholic community to reflect and act on social, economic and ecological issues. The statements are published as a focal point for Social Justice Sunday, which will be marked on August 27 this year.

This year’s statement, Listen, Learn, Love: A New Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, will be launched in Western Sydney on Thursday morning by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service.

“One of the objectives of this statement is that we want Catholics to understand that Catholic social teaching and Catholic social action are not simply theoretical and academic exercises,” he will say.

“We hear what God is saying to us about justice by being with our sisters and brothers on the peripheries of society.”

While the Social Justice Statement is a teaching document of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, a large part of this year’s statement was written by members of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council. It is part of the message’s exhortation to “listen”.

“Listening is hard. Hearing about young people taking their lives, about so many people ending up in jail, of children still being taken away from their parents and grandparents and about the ongoing racism is tough,” Bishop Long will say.

“It must be so much more difficult for these people to tell us about their painful experiences. We are deeply grateful to those who shared their stories of pain with us.”

The theme for this year’s statement was chosen in May 2022, well before the Voice to Parliament referendum was mooted and before the timing of a vote was proposed. While the bishops don’t suggest how people should vote, Bishop Long says “whatever the outcome of this year’s referendum, we ask the Church in Australia to make efforts to lead the way for our fellow Australians” in pursuing reconciliation.

“Our attitudes and actions towards First Nations Peoples need to be grounded in justice, love and humility,” he will say.

“We need to listen with deep respect and learn from them about what needs to be done to improve their situations. We need to walk with them, day by day, and work with them to bring about change for the better – for their people and for all of us.

“Strengthening our relationship with our First Peoples is integral and indeed critical to the strengthening of the whole nation.”

Watch the launch at 9am AEST:
Access the statement at:

3 thoughts on “Bishops’ statement calls for ‘new engagement’ with First Peoples

  1. Richard CARTHEW

    I would have thought that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that I am part of would leave us as individuals to make up our mind about the “referendum”
    That you have adopted the “corporate, footy club, qantas attitude is extremely disappointing …..Bishops and co….
    Richard Carthew
    Torquay Qld
    No Voter

  2. Tony Robertson

    A good example of leadership from the ACBC. We know the Conference have endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart and individuals like Archbishop Mark Coleridge have indicated personal support for the Yes case in the referendum.

    Being Catholic in the public square is challenging with the revelations of historical sexual and spiritual abuse by those who exercised leadership. Our history is a moshpit of paradox and ambiguity in the midst of which extraordinary moments of the sacred breakthrough in the lives and witness of individuals.

    The call to Listen, Learn and Love is at the heart of what it means to be human. This is more than a statement. It is an invitation to a new engagement.

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