2014: Year of Change, Challenge, Joy and Tragedy

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
29 Dec 2014

The past 12 months have brought much joy. They have also brought dramatic change, challenge and tragedy.

Many of the events, in what was an often tumultuous year, helped to shape, strengthen and inspire us. In the wake of unthinkable tragedies, some of these events have also helped to bring Australians closer together, united in our grief and in our determination to protect Australian values and the Australian way of life.

One of the most disturbing aspects of 2014 was a sharp increase in atrocities committed against children. Islamic extremists Boko Haram continued to kidnap hundreds of young girls from schools in West Africa, forcing them to convert and marry members of the terrorist organisation. 

In Pakistan last week the world reeled in horror after ruthless Taliban fanatics stormed an army public school in Peshawar and in an unrelenting bloodbath slaughtered 133 children and nine of their teachers. More than 125 others were severely injured.

Children also witnessed untold horrors and suffered at the hands of ISIS, the extremist militia that swept across Northern Iraq in June, and in a frenzy of barbarism massacred men, women and children in an unrelenting war against Christians and ethnic minorities.

But amid the horror there were also moments of great happiness.

On Divine Mercy Sunday in April, Catholics across the world joined together in a global outpouring of joy and jubilation at the canonisation of two of the world's most beloved popes: St John XVIII and St John Paul II.

In March, there was surprise and sadness for many when the Archdiocese farewelled the long serving Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell who was appointed by Pope Francis to become Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy at the Vatican. The Cardinal's replacement was announced in September and the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP was installed at St Mary's Cathedral in November becoming Sydney's ninth metropolitan Archbishop.

Well-known to Sydneysiders from his years as Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese as well as his role as Co-ordinator of the city's hugely successful World Youth Day in 2008, and more recently the Bishop of the Parramatta Diocese, Archbishop Anthony's installation was attended by Bishops from around Australia, priests, religious seminarians and also business, civic and community leaders, families and many young people.

Amid these periods of great happiness and optimism, there were also periods of overwhelming shock and disbelief in the wake of four unthinkable tragedies:  the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 and its 239 passengers and crew; the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 by Russian-backed separatists in the Ukraine taking the lives of 298 men, women and children including 38 Australians lost their lives; last week's terrorist attack in the heart of Sydney where barrister Katrina Dawson and manager Tori Johnson lost their lives when an Islamic extremist held 17 hostage for 17 hours in the Lindt cafe in Martin Place;  and then the murder of eight children in Cairns.

A month-by-month look back at what has been a year of change and challenge, sadness and joy here.