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Message from the General-Secretary

Sr Elizabeth Delaney SGS

During these past weeks as the National Council of Churches in Australia has begun preparing in earnest for the National Forum that will be held in Sydney on 24 – 27 June, I find myself reflecting on the theme of journey.

Our Lenten journey is always a time of challenge, of temptation, of walking with God, knowing that God is with us- even when we do not feel his presence. We pray that God’s grace sustains us as we journey towards Easter, the pinnacle of our Christian faith.

At an international level during the past months there have been significant meetings which have advanced ecumenical relationships. Pope Francis has met with the Ecumenical Patriarch and more recently with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis issued a joint declaration which begins

“By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization”.

What a journey lies behind these words.

I find myself reflecting on the journey of the NCCA. When we gather for the Forum we will look back on 22 years since that memorable day when the mantle was carried into St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra. We will also consider the present as we seek to continue the journey into the future. So much has been achieved and yet so much is still to be achieved…

Locally, representatives of different faiths continue to come together. Recently the Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations (APRO) met at the Sikh temple in Austral. Prior to the meeting, our Sikh friends invited us into their temple and offered an explanation of their rituals. The reverence shown the sacred writings was profound. During this meeting I could not help but reflect on the respect and openness that have enabled conversations and friendships to develop. On 1 March the next conversation of the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews will take place. This group has generally met three times each year since it commenced on 14 March 2003. Over these years of journeying together, real friendships have developed enabling us to hear differences and respect them. We participate in these events knowing that we are building on firm foundations, and with a sure hope that they will continue to bring forth fruits.

As I write I am preparing to travel to Wellington, New Zealand. The New Zealand Anglican, Catholic and Methodist Churches have agreed to form an ecumenical entity to pursue closer ties and share understandings. The churches share the hope that the dialogue will lead to formal ecumenical collaboration among the churches and other groups in society that want to see progress on issues that are a concern of all New Zealanders. Consequently, the National Dialogue for Christian Unity (NDCU) is holding its inaugural annual forum in Wellington on 25 February 2016, followed by a service of celebration at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Recognizing this as a significant moment in the ecumenical journey of the churches in New Zealand, I accepted wholeheartedly the invitation to be present to witness the hope that has given birth to the occasion. Photos will follow.

In cities across Australia, a different kind of journey will take place. On Palm Sunday rallies will take place providing a forum for people to express their commitment to refugees and asylum seekers and urging our nation to welcome them. This rally may provide an opportunity to reflect on the journey that so many people have made – not because they would have wanted to leave home, but because they saw the alternative of staying was too dreadful for them to choose it.

This Palm Sunday, March 20 let us all WELCOME REFUGEES! See Events for specific locations.

May your Lenten journey draw you ever closer to your loving God.

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