Universities United in Support of Great Grace Conference

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
6 Feb 2013

Bishop Peter Comensoli

Sydney's Universities are giving their full support to the Great Grace Conference and encouraging students to attend by offering assignments and units in their degree programs to participants at this important event.

Regarded as the most significant religious gathering in Sydney since World Youth Day in 2008, "The Great Grace: Receiving Vatican II Today" will be held from 20-23 May this year. The four day conference will feature nine outstanding national and international keynote speakers and approximately 30 intensive workshops together with a series of other events to not only celebrate the 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II but to explore and celebrate its ongoing relevance not only to the world of today and into the future.

"Blessed John Paul II described Vatican II as The Great Grace for the Church for the 21st Century, from which we have taken the name for our Conference," explains Bishop Peter Comensoli, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Sydney and one of the organisers and driving forces behind this important event.

The esteem with which the city's Catholic higher education bodies regard the Conference and the  high calibre of the keynote speakers and workshops has resulted in each of them allowing students who attend the jam-packed four day event to claim study credits for courses they are taking. Some universities have gone even further and in addition to study credits are also offering financial help with the cost of attending the event to selected students.

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) will encourage students from its Strathfield and North Sydney campuses as well as students at its Canberra, Brisbane, Ballarat and Melbourne campuses to attend and have pledged that any student who wishes to attend either for study credits or simply out of personal interest will be sponsored by the University.

ACU Bachelor of Theology students will be able to attend the Conference as part of a Semester I unit entitled THCT210 Special Studies in Theology . Students from other ACU courses may attend as part of a unit entitled THCT302 Contemporary Approaches to Theology. For either unit, students who attend the Conference will be required to undertake supervised study for credit.

The University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA) is also offering students in the School of Philosophy and Theology who enrol in a unit entitled TH350 Special Topics in Theology: Introduction to the Second Vatican Council to attend the Conference as part of their unit. Assessments of this unit will be based around keynote presentations given at the Conference and the ongoing legacy of Vatican II now and into the future.

Pope Paul VI's Nostra Aetate from Vatican II a wonderful model for interfaith dialogue and respect

At Campion College students have been given permission to miss some class time to attend the four-day Conference in May.

The Catholic Institute of Sydney has also embraced the Conference and is offering a new unit based around the Great Grace for students who attend the event.

Broken Bay Institute is yet another well known leader in tertiary education which is encouraging attendance by staff as well as students and is allowing students who attend the Conference to receive credits in the Institute's theology and religious programs.

An initiative of the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, planning and organisation for The Great Grace Conference began more than 12 months ago.

"The fact the event not only marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II but will be held in this Year of Faith gives the Conference particular resonance and provides an opportunity for all who attend to deepen this faith and share it with the world," Bishop Comensoli says.

The keynote speakers at the Conference include Cardinal Pell who will deliver the opening address at St Mary's Cathedral. In this free-of-charge public lecture entitled "Yesterday's Council for Tomorrow's World " , His Eminence will discuss the teachings and findings of Vatican II and their continuing relevance to the present as well as our future.

Other outstanding minds who have signed on as keynote speakers at the Conference are Cardinal Marc Ouellet, OMI, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; the Most Rev Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit; Arcbhishop Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds and Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; British Catholic journalist, author and commentator Austin Ivereigh, who writes regularly for Britain's Guardian as well as the America magazine in New York; Jack Valero, press officer for Opus Dei in the UK and co-ordinator with Austin Ivereigh Catholic Voices and of 2006's Da Vinci Code Response Group; Professor Anthony Kelly CSSR, Professor of Theology at the Australian Catholic University and long time member of the Pontifical International Theological Commission;  Professor Tracey Rowland, Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family (Melbourne) and Adjunct Professor at the University of Notre Dame's Centre of Faith Ethics and Society; and Professor Anne Hunt, Executive Dean of the School of Philosophy and Theology at the Australian Catholic University, a specialist in Trinitarian theology and authority on the profound influence of Vatican II's rediscovery of the Church's origins in the mystery of the Trinity.

One of the major reforms brought about by Vatican II was recognition of the importance of the role of women in the Church and this will be reinforced not only from the keynote speakers at the Conference but in many of the planned workshops, Bishop Comensoli says.

More than 650 men and women from universities, parishes, communities and cities across Australia and Oceania are expected to attend the Great Grace Conference with thousands more participating via live podcasts and streaming.

To find out more about the Conference go to

Vatican II began 50 years ago and its legacy continues now and into the future