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Recent Events - Catholic Church Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s visit to Alice Springs

Pope John Paul II in Alice Springs, 29 November 1986

Pope John Paul II in Alice Springs, 29 November 1986

On Sunday 27th November 2016, church leaders, parishes and Indigenous communities gathered together to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the visit to Alice Springs of Saint John Paul II (JPII) on 29th November 1986. The Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (BCRATSIP) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) worked together to prepare this day of celebration.

‘Walk Tall and Command Respect. The time for this rebirth is now’ was the theme of the commemorations.

Celebrating this anniversary has provided an opportunity to be reminded of the important words of Pope St John Paul II, the Bishop of Darwin said. ‘You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you.’ ‘This is the right time and place when we, the Church, are invited and encouraged to listen to our indigenous sisters and brothers and look at specific actions we need to take to ensure the meaningful roles and contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Church and society.’

Bishop Eugene Hurley, Chairman of BCRATSIP said, ‘This timely theme is an invitation and call to us to create and ensure a change in societal attitude and promote not only rebirth and hope but justice and equal rights of indigenous peoples.’

Bishop Hurley added, ‘Not only is this commemoration a call to inspire faith communities to promote a greater contribution for First Nations peoples within our Church. It is also a call to actively face the massive assault and injustices on the very lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Those assaults include the high rate of suicide and incarceration among our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.

Chairman of NATSICC, John Lochowiak, recalling the 1986 visit, said ‘As Saint John Paul II spoke, a windstorm picked up the red soil from the Earth and swirled it amongst our people. The dust seemed to intertwine with the words of love, hope and empathy. The message touched our souls and it touched our skin. Never before had we felt so welcome in the house of Jesus as when Saint John Paul II spoke.

‘The impact of this day on our lives cannot be measured. It provided the encouragement for the establishment of Aboriginal and Islander Catholic Ministries all over Australia and it lit the fire in our hearts, which still provides the warmth, energy and strength for us to continue. We now have over 120,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics in Australia and the support of our Australian Catholic Bishops on our journey of faith,’ Lochowiak said.

Read: Pope St John Paul II's 1986 address to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People 

Find: the Anniversary Prayer Card here