ACU Celebrates 100 Years of Diplomatic Relations between the Holy See and Australia

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
25 Nov 2014

Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti at yesterday's ACU Centenary Celebrations of Apostolic Papal Delegations to Australia

The Mary MacKillop North Sydney campus of the Australian Catholic University (ACU) was once the official residence of the Apostolic Nuncio. It was also where Blessed Pope Paul VI stayed during the first-ever Papal visit to Australia in December 1970.

This week it was also the site for a special celebration with the foreign minister to the Vatican, who will soon take up his new role as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Dominque Mamberti.

Moroccan-born Archbishop Mamberti who is currently visiting Australia said that it was particularly appropriate that ACU mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Australia and the Centenary of the first Apostolic Delegation to Australasia.

"I must say the University has done well in acquiring this building. I know that Vice Chancellor Professor Greg Craven is particularly pleased since not everyone can say that a Pope once slept in his office!"  the Archbishop said in his address to the more than 500 gathered at ACU's recently-opened Peter Cosgrove Centre to commemorate the Centenary of Papal Representation in Australia.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia at ACU's celebrations yesterday

The Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who Pope Francis recently appointed to succeed Archbishop Mamberti as Secretary for the Holy See's Relations of States joined members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, ACU Chancellor John Fahey, members of the ACU Senate and staff as well as representatives of Catholic health, education and social services groups.

The former Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See, Anne Leahy was also present to celebrate the conferring of a Doctor of the University (honoris causa), the university's highest honour, on Archbishop Mamberti.

Archbishop Gallagher delivered the speech of welcome which was followed by the key policy statement by Archbishop Mamberti who was appointed Secretary for the Holy See's Relations of States by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 until his recent new appointment this month.

Archbishops Gallagher, Mamberti and Fisher taking in the sights of Sydney

In his address Archbishop Mamberti revealed a detailed and intimate knowledge of the Church in Australia, and he was quick to point out that while the first Apostolic Delegation to Australasia was established by Pope Pius X in April 1914, the history of the Church in Australia went back much further.

"It is an inspiring story of heroic sacrifice and courageous endeavour, in the face of hardship and difficulties of all kinds," he said and spoke of the early colony years, the convict priests and the arrival of the young nation's first official Catholic chaplains, Fr John Therry and Philip Connolly.  He spoke of Australia's first Archbishop, John Bede Polding and the "contribution of two remarkable women: Caroline Chisholm and Mary MacKillop."

Archbishop Mamberti went on to pay tribute to the more than a million Catholics from European nations such as Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Germany, Croatia and Hungary after World War II and the more recent arrivals of Catholics from Asian countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam and India as well as from across the Pacific.

ACU's Mary MacKillop North Sydney campus was the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia's official residence until the 1970s

"They have brought with them their distinctive ways of living and celebrating their faith, thus joining the Indigenous population and the descendants of the first Europeans to make the Church in Australia the vibrant, dynamic and varied reality that it is today."

To great amusement among those present, he also told the story of how each day on his way to his office in the Vatican he passes a large map of the world on the wall, just outside the entrance to what is now the Secretariat of State.

"The map was frescoed at the end of the Sixteenth Century and depicts the world as it was known to Europeans at the time. Unfortunately, there is a major omission, namely Australia which was then unknown," he said. "But I am pleased to confirm that since then, Australia has well and truly found its place on the map!"

During his time in Australia, he said he had had the privilege of meeting with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop and said relations with Australia and the Holy See had continued to strengthen over the years.

(l to r) Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gallagher, ACU Vice Chancellor Professor Greg Craven, Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, ACU Chancellor John Fahey, ACU President Archbishop Denis Hart

He also saw some of the sights of Sydney from the Harbour during a cruise hosted by the Archbishop of Sydney the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, where he was joined by a number of Sydney priests and friends of the Archdiocese.

Yesterday at ACU the Archbishop singled out the Papal visits by St John Paul II in 1986 and 1995 and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI for "the unforgettable celebrations of World Youth Day in 2008"and the appointment of the first resident Ambassador to the Holy See, His Excellency Mr Tim Fischer, as the high points of the 40 years since the first Apostolic Nuncio was appointed to Australia.

Pope Pius X appointed the first Apostolic Delegation to Australasia in April 1914

Anne Leahy, former Ambassador of Canada to the Holy See from 2008 until 2012, spoke about the relevance of the Holy Father's foreign policies as expressed with his first meeting with Ambassadors in Rome in March last year, shortly after his election as Pope.  She also spoke of Pope Francis focus on poverty both material and spiritual and his determination to act as abridge with those of all faiths and denominations and to help bring about peace.

Formal events to mark the 100th anniversary of the first Apostolic Delegation and 40th Anniversary of the arrival of Australia's first Apostolic Nuncio will be held in Canberra on Friday, 28 November and attended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, diplomats, the Nuncio Archbishop Gallagher and staff and members of the Nunciature.