Vatican Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, has returned from a one-week visit (4-10 November) to Australia to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Australia. During his stay, following an invitation from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Australian Government, the Archbishop and Msgr Jan Thomas Limchua, who accompanied him, visited Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth.
Upon his arrival at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport on Friday, 4 November, Archbishop Gallagher was welcomed by Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, Apostolic Nuncio in Australia, and by Msgr Alfred Rayan D’Souza, Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature. Also present was H.E. Chiara Porro, Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See.
On Sunday, 5 November, Archbishop Gallagher concelebrated Holy Mass in Saint Mary Cathedral with Archbishop Balvo and Archbishop Anthony Fisher, op, of Sydney. Later in the evening, he was the guest of honour at a dinner organized by Archbishop Balvo and attended by representatives of the Church, civil society and the government.
On Monday, 6 November, Archbishop Gallagher visited Australian Catholic University’s Sydney campus and gave a lecture on religious freedom and its role in conflict resolution, highlighting that authentic religious freedom with respect for diversity and the human being fosters social cohesion, prevents radicalization and promotes cooperation. Religious freedom, he said, “is not merely a human right but also a transcendent, practical path toward healing divisions, promoting dialogue, and forging a more peaceful and harmonious global community”.
After the lecture, he prayed at the tomb of Australia’s first Saint, Saint Mary Mackillop, before attending the Plenary Assembly of Australia’s Catholic Bishops Conference, where he was warmly greeted by Conference President Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, sdb, of Perth, and Archbishop Fisher, Vice President. Addressing the Assembly, Archbishop Gallagher, who served as Apostolic Nuncio in Australia from 2012 to 2014, encouraged the bishops to promote a welcoming, healing and hopeful Church in a world marked by war and unrest.
Archbishop Gallagher then met with Bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches at an event hosted by Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, olm, of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Sydney. Fraternal discussions focused on the many crises afflicting the world and on the importance of persevering on the journey towards peace and dialogue.
On 7 November, Archbishop Gallagher travelled to Canberra where he met with Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, with whom he spoke about the current situation in indigenous communities. In the evening, he attended a reception at the Apostolic Nunciature along with members of the Diplomatic Corps, religious, laypeople and officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Speaking to the guests, Archbishop Gallagher highlighted the strong cooperation between Australia and the Holy See, especially with regard to issues concerning humanity in general.
The following day, he had a private meeting with Senator Dan Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism and Special Minister of State, and then an afternoon visit with the Governor-General, H.E. David Hurley and his wife at Government House. During the cordial meeting, both parties mentioned the Catholic Church’s contribution to the country and the Holy Father’s role in seeking the common good, in particular in the fight against climate change, resolution of humanitarian conflicts and the need for a lasting peace.
Archbishop Gallagher travelled to Melbourne on 9 November, accompanied by Archbishop of Melbourne Peter A. Comensoli. After visiting the office of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Victoria, where he heard about the local Church’s initiatives in favour of Aboriginal communities, he had lunch with social and pastoral workers, members of civil society and local government representatives at the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Addressing the guests, Gallagher spoke about faith’s role in guaranteeing the inalienable dignity of the human person. He then had a brief encounter with the clergy and religious of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and presided over Mass for the Feast of the dedication of Saint John Lateran, in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The day ended with a formal dinner in his honour offered by the Archdiocese, where he spoke about the Catholic Church’s contribution in the public sphere.
On the last day of his visit, Archbishop Gallagher returned to Canberra to meet Senator and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Penny Wong. During their cordial discussion, the parties highlighted the good bilateral relations between the two States, the Catholic Church’s contribution to Australian society and themes of common interests such as climate change, regional stability and the wars currently affecting humanity. The Archbishop then travelled to Perth for a visit to Notre Dame University, where he spoke about the Holy See’s foreign policy. As the universal pastor of the Church, Archbishop Gallagher said, the Pope “exercises his soft power indirectly by inspiring the global community to champion related initiatives and policy preferences within their secular roles”.