Great Deals for Sydney's Great Grace Conference

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
7 Mar 2013

The world's bishops gather in St Peter's Basilica for the start of
Vatican II

University students are being offered special rates to enable them to take part in The Great Grace Conference to be held in Sydney in May. There are also great Earlybird discounts of $150 for those who register for the Conference before Friday, 15 March.

Regarded as one of the most significant religious gatherings for intellectual and faith formation to be held in Australia in recent times, The Great Grace: Receiving Vatican II Today will bring together nine of the world's leading theological scholars and experts on the Second Vatican Council as key note speakers. The Conference will feature 30 workshops designed to explore the remarkable teachings of Vatican II and celebrate the relevance of the Council not only now but into the future. 

An initiative of the Archdiocese of Sydney in partnership with Australian Catholic University (ACU) as the Conference's major sponsor, The Great Grace is designed to give participants a unique insight into one of the most momentous events of the Church.

Taking its name from Blessed John Paul's description of Vatican II as "The Great Grace for the Church for the 21st Century," the Conference will run from 20-23 May and is not only being held in the Year of Grace but during the 50th anniversary of the start of the Council which began under Pope John XXIII in October 1962 and closed three years later in December 1965 under Pope Paul VI.

Prior to becoming Pope, Blessed John Paul II was one of the great scholars of Vatican II.

"From the vantage point of 50 years it is too easy to the see the Council merely as a gathering of key figures over several years who made some changes, and to regard this today simply as part of the past," says Professor Greg Craven, Vice Chancellor of ACU.  "We forget that the great minds of the Council: Ratzinger (who later became Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), Wojtyla (who became Blessed John Paul II), Congar, Rahner, Courtney Murray, de Smedt, Suenans, König and others were the great minds of the mid-Twentieth Century."

Professor Craven says the remarkable legacy of these great minds who attended Vatican II will not be sufficiently mined in a mere 50 years nor possibly even in 100 years.

"The Great Grace Conference is an outstanding opportunity for students, university staff and for people of faith of all ages and walks of life to reflect on the Council and its teachings together," he says and adds that he is particularly pleased young people, none of whom were even born at the time of Vatican II, will have a chance to "be introduced to the remarkable teachings that emerged from the Council and now shape our understanding of the Church and its mission, a mission we all share."

The importance with which The Great Grace Conference is regarded by scholars and Church leaders is underscored by the fact that ACU, the University of Notre Dame, Campion College, the Broken Bay Institute and the Catholic Institute of Sydney are each offering course credits for students who attend the Conference to be put towards their diploma or degree.

Professor Craven is also urging staff at ACU as well as students to attend and is proud that of the nine outstanding keynote speakers two are professors from the University. Professor Anthony Kelly CssR, is a Redemptorist priest, prolific author on Christian life and Professor of Theology at ACU. Professor Anne Hunt is a Doctor of Theology and has written on Vatican II and its vision on the role of the laity in the Church.  She is currently Executive Dean of ACU's Faculty of Theology and Philosophy.

Pope Paul VI's Nostra Aetate from Vatican II a wonderful model for interfaith relations

Other highly regarded key note speakers who will address the Conference include Canada's Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome and tipped one of those who may be elected as the next Pope; the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell; and Professor Tracey Rowland, Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

The rich contribution made by women to the Church was recognised, encouraged and celebrated by Vatican II and Professor Craven is particularly pleased not only about the increasing numbers of women studying at ACU but the high percentage of women holding senior leadership positions at the University.

"Five of our six executive deans are women and half the deputy vice-chancellors are also women - a claim no other University can make," he says and on the eve of International Women's Day tomorrow, 8 March, pays tribute to the influence and contribution of women particularly at ACU.

"Since Vatican II the numbers of lay people studying theology have risen with a significant number of women among them, including our Dean of Theology and Philosophy ACU, Anne Hunt who will be a keynote speaker at the Conference," he says.

To find out more about The Great Grace: Receiving Vatican II Today and to check on the discount deals for Earlybirds and students go to