Addresses and Statements


08 Jul 2024


Your Beatitude, Ignatius Yousef III Cardinal Yonan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East; Your Graces of the Syriac Catholic Church, Mor Basilius Georges Casmoussa, Apostolic Visitor in Australia & New Zealand, Mor Ephrem Yousif Abba, Archeparch of Baghdad and Mor Barnaba Yousif Habash, Eparch of the USA; Your Grace Archbishop Amel Nona of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Australia & New Zealand; and V. Rev. Mons. Basil Sousanian, Patriarchal Vicar of the Armenian Catholic Church in Australia;

Your Eminent Graces Archbishop Malatius Malki Malki of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese, Metropolitan Mar Meelis Zaia of the Assyrian Orthodox Archdiocese, Bishop Daniel of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese and Metropolitan Basilios Kodseie of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese;

V. Rev. Mons. Habib Mrad, Secretary of the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate; V. Rev. Mons. Marcelino Youssef, Vicar General of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia; Chorbishop Joseph Joseph of the Ancient Church of the East; Frs Youhanna (Lenard) Ina and Majid Al Hanna; other reverend fathers, revered monks and nuns; civic leaders and other distinguished guests; brothers and sisters in Christ:

As we come to lay the foundation-stone of a church, we recall that the stone that the builders rejected, Jesus, became the cornerstone of the Church (Acts 4:11). He famously pronounced that this Church of His would be built upon the solid rock of Peter, the disciple who first proclaimed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Yet if faith is a solid basis for starting anything, it can be as little as a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, and only later flourish, as the Lord said, into something beyond our wildest expectations (Mt 13:31-32 et par.).

This evening, we joyfully gather to celebrate an important milestone in the life of the Syriac Catholic Church in Sydney. It goes back four decades now to the arrival of the late and much revered Chorbishop Michael Berbari, who joined his parents, siblings and other recent arrivals to celebrate the first Mass in the Syriac Catholic Rite in Australia at Lidcombe. Since then, many Syriac Catholics have brought their faith to a new home here in Australia and have passed it on to their children and their children’s children, so that the little mustard seed of their church community has flourished into a bush big enough to shelter many birds. I know that the loss of that population to their homelands in Iraq and Syria is a particular pain to His Beatitude and the other Syriac Catholic bishops with us today, as it represents the hollowing out of the Christian presence in the holy lands, and the persecution, often enough unto death, of so many. In 2013 His Beatitude visited those who had found refuge here, promising them a new priest or two, and conferring honours on Mons. Berbari. Little did we know how many more would flow this way because of the shameful acts of ISIS terrorists. But His Beatitude’s pain was our gain, as those refugees have proven a great gift to the Australian community and to the Catholic Church here, as I trust Australia and its Church has proved to be for them.

Putting their faith in God’s plan for this community, that growing Syriac Catholic community focused on worthy worship of God, on catechising their children, and on assisting those traumatised by having to flee their homeland. The Syriac Catholic Church of Sydney became, in the words of St Ephrem the Syrian, a place where they could drink from the “living spring” of God’s word and quench their “thirst for God and his truth.” (Ephrem, Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron). 1994 saw the consecration of the first Syriac Catholic Church in Sydney, Our Lady of the Mercy in Concord.

Tonight we lay the foundation stone for another church for the burgeoning community in Sydney’s outer West, witnessing anew the wonder of God and His ways, and thanking Him for the many graces He has bestowed on the Syriac Catholics of Sydney. May God continue to bless all of His children, especially those who will be nourished by His Word and Sacrament here in Kemps Creek. Congratulations! And God bless you all. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.