Visits to Eastern Churches demonstrate Catholic unity

Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards OMI, Maronite Bishop of Australia Antoine-Charbel Tarabay and Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse at Our Lady of Lebanon Church

Leaders of Eastern Catholic Churches say having Latin rite bishops join them in their liturgical celebrations shows the unity of the universal Catholic Church.

During their biannual Plenary Meeting in Melbourne, bishops from across Australia celebrated Sunday Mass with the Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite, Syro-Malabar and Ukrainian Catholic communities on May 5.Most Catholics in Australia belong to the Western Catholic Church and celebrate the Latin or Roman rite of the Mass. Eastern Catholic Churches are in full communion with the Pope and other bishops, but celebrate one of the Eastern rites of the Church.

Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Maronite Bishop of Australia, said he – and the parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon Church – had “a sense of joy” in welcoming other members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

“The coming together of bishops from the Eastern Church and the Western Church was a great symbol of our shared ministry to Catholics all over the world,” Bishop Tarabay said.

Bishop Bosco Puthur welcomed bishops from Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales to the Syro-Malabar Church, which draws its faithful mostly from southern India.

“The Eastern bishops genuinely feel a part of the Bishops Conference, but to share in the celebration of the liturgy was a deeply moving experience – for my community, and for them,” he explained.

It is believed to be the first time such a large number of Latin rite bishops have celebrated Mass in Eastern Catholic Churches on the same weekend.

Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the Church in Australia has benefited greatly from the arrival of Catholics from all over the world.

“The Church has long been enriched by people from around the world, which until recent years was largely from western Europe, Ireland and the United Kingdom,” he said.

“Now, partly due to the challenges Christians face in some parts of the world and also increased international mobility, our Church is enhanced by the rich liturgy and deep faith of people from the Middle East, from India and from other parts of the world who make up our Eastern Churches.”

Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli, who celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, said while there was a familiarity with the Latin rite Mass, there was also a uniqueness that was invigorating and enriching.

“To celebrate the Eucharist with our Eastern sisters and brothers is somewhat uncommon, but it was a visible sign of the common Catholic faith that we share,” Archbishop Comensoli said.