Addresses and Statements

Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP Address to the Media on His Appointment as Archbishop of Sydney

19 Sep 2014

Thank you Bishop Peter and thank you all, a very good morning to you; I am deeply honoured by this appointment and by Pope Francis's expression of confidence in me.

It's very exciting to return to what Bishop Peter just explained is my home diocese it's where I grew up and worked. I started in the South, we moved to the North, I worked in the East and now I have been Bishop in the West. I feel I have covered every corner of Sydney and now I am going back to the very centre of Sydney. It's a city I love. I have a deep concern for the people of Sydney and it's going to be a special privilege to be their shepherd now.

I'd ask all Catholics but also all people of good will to pray for me at this time that I really be a shepherd after the heart of the good shepherd of Jesus Christ.

I am being entrusted with a great responsibility at a time when the Catholic Church in Australia has been going through a period of public scrutiny and self-examination. It's been harrowing to listen to the stories of survivors of abuse as I have done here as the Bishop of Parramatta. To hear how the Church let them down, to hear how they felt abandoned and their continuing suffering. Survivors of past abuse and our future young people, to them both I say no excuses, no cover ups. I am ashamed and I am sorry for where we failed you in the past. The Church can do better in this area and I am determined to play my part now as a leader in Sydney to make that happen.

I hope the Church will emerge from this period purified, it will be a humbler Church I hope more compassionate Church, spiritually regenerated by what it's going through and I think we can only hope to repair people's confidence in the Church, people outside and inside the Church if we get this right.

Before I invite your questions I just would like to say a little about what's happening in Sydney at the moment. The arrests yesterday are a matter for law enforcement authorities and for the courts and I have great confidence in them. As a religious leader though, I think people of faith have something very important to do and to say at the moment. In troubled times in our world and even in our own city we need to bring some calm, some restraint, some wisdom at this time.

The fact of the matter is this city and this church can say something very important right now. The city of Sydney and this nation has every nation on earth represented, every ethnic group every faith, we live together as neighbours as friends as work colleagues, we are an example to the whole world of how that's possible and this church the Catholic Church is the most multinational organisation in the world. So in this Church you look in my present cathedral in Parramatta you look at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, every nation on earth is represented there and we are a people who are united by this faith and we can demonstrate to the world that people of many different backgrounds, histories, ethnic groups, nationalities, can live as friends as colleagues as neighbours.

I think Australia needs to recommit to that right now and the church needs to play its part in getting that message out to our community, that we want to live in a situation of harmony, where innocent people are safe and where neighbours are true neighbours to each other.

The Catholic Church in Australia has played a crucial role in building this country, through parishes, through education, through welfare, through aged care in so many ways it's built a large part of the social capital of this country and it still has a job to do in renewing that social capital, in renewing  the attitudes, the ideals the practices that underlie this stable democracy, this affluent economy, this harmonious community, so we've  a task to do as a Catholic community and it is a huge privilege for me to be leading the Church in Sydney in this time in history with its present challenges.

Finally I want to say I have been enormously enriched by the time I have had out here in the diocese of Parramatta, by the collaboration I have had of my priests of the people of Parramatta and of the beautiful young people of Parramatta some of whom were coming here to meet me today little knowing, as I little knew when it was organised, what a different kind of day it was going to end up being.

They have been great friends to me, I have loved being the shepherd of this flock, there is some grief in leaving from here but I think all the gifts you see here in Western Sydney are the gifts of Sydney too and I very much look forward to being shepherd now in the flock of Sydney.