News from the November 2008 Plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

December 10, 2008 9:30 am

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference held its Plenary Meeting at Mary Mackillop Place, North Sydney from November 24 to November 28, 2008.
The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Guiseppe Lazzarotto delivered the opening address in which he praised the ‘˜grace-filled’ events of World Youth Day and said it was of the ‘utmost importance that the spirit of WYD is kept alive through the creative and appropriate initiatives aimed at fostering and renewing pastoral youth ministry’.
Throughout the week the Bishops also received briefings from World Youth Day organisers, during which they looked back on the event and also looked to the future, with a particular emphasis on the XT3 social networking website.
The Bishops heard that XT3 now has more than 40,000 members and is proving to be a popular and effective tool for youth ministry and for connecting with young people who might not be Church-goers.
The Bishops formally thanked Cardinal Pell, Bishop Anthony Fisher and the staff of the Archdiocese of Sydney for all that they contributed to the organisation and conduct of World Youth Day and approved a blueprint for the future of youth ministry co-ordination.
In other presentations, the Bishops heard from Sr Anne Derwin rsj and Sr Maria Casey rsj on the progress of the canonisation process for Blessed Mary Mackillop. The Sisters said the process continued slowly and painstakingly, with a great deal of attention to detail from the Roman authorities. There was still no indication of when the process might be completed.
The Bishops were informed that Sr Maria had been appointed Postulator of the Cause for Blessed Mary Mackillop, at the request of the former Postulator, Fr Paul Gardiner SJ, who felt he was no longer able to travel to Rome as often as required.
During their meeting the Bishops noted the retirement of Bishop Patrick Dougherty and welcomed the newly appointed Administrator for the Diocese of Bathurst, Fr Patrick O’Regan. They also noted the passing of Bishop Peter Quinn, Emeritus Bishop of Bunbury, since their last meeting.
The Bishops welcomed Bishop Peter Cullinane as the observer from the New Zealand Bishops’ Conference, and Sr Clare Condon sgs, Fr Timothy Brennan msc, and Fr Timothy Norton svd as observers from Catholic Religious Australia.
Monsignor Tom Doyle, the former Chair of the National Catholic Education Commission was special guest at a dinner during the Plenary Meeting, during which the Bishops thanked him for his long and dedicated service to Catholic education.

NATSICC Chair gives Bishops moving personal testimony to the power of national apology to stolen generations
The Prime Minister’s National Apology to the Stolen Generations was a great moment for indigenous Australians, but the Church had to be active in ensuring that reconciliation remained on the agenda, the chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Commission, Elsie Heiss told the Bishops during their plenary meeting.
Mrs Heiss and NATSICC’s ACT representative Kerrie Hogan were invited to address the Plenary Meeting to mark the significance of the apology and to give an overview of the activities occurring in Aboriginal Ministry.
She said the apology meant a lot to her personally because her mother was part of the Stolen Generations, having been taken from her own mother at age 5.
‘That day down there in Canberra, I felt pain and joy,’ Mrs Heiss told the Bishops.
‘We felt, as we visited our mother and aunty’s graves, that we could move on now. So the apology means more than just words to me and my family.’
Mrs Heiss also said that in-depth consultation with indigenous communities needed to take place on the question of the future direction of the Government Intervention in Indigenous communities.
‘Everyone agrees that intervention was required in areas of child protection, health and education, but consultation was the main thing that didn’t happen and it still isn’t happening,’ she said.
‘It’s gone flat. Where to now? We need to come together more and we need to listen to each other.
‘Most importantly, we need to keep reconciliation on the agenda.’
Ms Hogan gave an outline of NATSICC activities and the work of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry around Australia, which included sacramental programs, youth programs, community faith gatherings and hospital chaplaincy.
Following on from the theme of World Youth Day, the NATSICC triennial conference will be held in Brisbane from 21 to 22 September 2009 with the theme, ‘The Holy Spirit in this Land’.
The conference will feature a special youth assembly.
‘We want to young people to come along as leaders,’ Mrs Heiss said. ‘Youth are so important to our community, whether black or white.’

NATSICC Chair, Mrs Elsie Heiss, Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, Archbishop Barry Hickey, and ACT NATSICC representative, Ms Kerrie Hogan at the Plenary Meeting.
New Missal edges closer
The introduction of the new English translation of the Latin Missal edged another step closer, with a secret ballot by the bishops giving the required canonical approval to a number of liturgical texts.
The Bishops approved the text of the ‘Grey Books’, or the final translation from the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) on the Votive Mass, Masses for the Dead, The Commons, the Proper of Saints, the Introductory Documents, Antiphons and Appendices.
These were the final Grey Books to be issued and signify that the task of translating the Missal is now complete.
Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Liturgy, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, said that while it was impossible to predict exactly when the new Missal would be published, current indications were that it might be towards the end of 2010.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Coleridge said that the Missal Implementation Team for Australia continued its work on preparing for the publishing of the new Missal. The Executive Secretary of the Bishops Commission for Liturgy, Fr Peter Williams will coordinate and manage the international group charged with preparing the material.
It is anticipated that the implementation resource material would be ready by November 2009.
In other liturgical news, the Bishops also approved a motion that the Conference petitions the Holy See for the inclusion of the feast day of St Marcellin Champagnat into the Australian calendar, and that this feast day be observed as a Memorial each year on 6 June.
The Bishops also approved a motion that the Conference requests the Holy See to confirm that the designation of the observance of Australia Day and Anzac Day be afforded in the Order of Precedence the rank of a Memorial for both days.

Bishops reflect on anti-life laws
Victoria’s radical new abortion laws were the topic of a lengthy discussion by the Bishops during their Plenary Meeting.
The Bishops heard from Archbishop Denis Hart and the other Victorian bishops about their experiences in vigorously opposing the legislation in a range of different forums.
Later in the meeting, the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life spoke about the successful ‘˜Walking with Love’ symposiums held around the nation this year and presented each Bishop with a copy of the ‘˜Walking with Love’ DVD.
The Walking with Love program takes a personal look at the issue of unexpected pregnancy. The program aims to encourage the Catholic community and all people of goodwill to increase their support for vulnerable pregnant women, and to reach out to those women, their husbands, partners and families, who have been touched by an abortion experience.
More information about Walking with Love and order forms can be obtained at


Accessible new pamphlets on Catholic doctrine to be issued next yearÂ
The Bishops Commission for Doctrine and Morals is preparing to publish a series of easy-to-read pamphlets on key areas of doctrine.
It is proposed that six pamphlets will be prepared by the members of the Commission, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Bishop Christopher Prowse, Bishop Anthony Fisher. Bishop Peter Elliott will also prepare one of the pamphlets.
They will be released to coincide with the feasts of Easter, Pentecost, the Assumption, Exaltation of the Cross, Christ the King and Christmas.
The pamphlets will examine the subjects of Christology, Truth in the Church, Christian understanding of the Body, Moral Truths, Eschatology and Salvation.
The Bishops Commission for Doctrine and Morals has also commissioned Dr Anne Hunt to develop a booklet on the Trinity. The booklet is directed to a general audience, including secondary students. It is expected that the booklet will be ready for publication during 2009.
Bishops farewell NCCA head, Rev John Henderson

  • The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches Australia, Rev John Henderson, has resigned as he has been appointed to the position the Principal of Australian Lutheran College in Adelaide.
  • The Conference welcomed Rev Henderson at lunch on Wednesday 26 November, during the Plenary Meeting.
  • The Bishops Commission for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations expressed appreciation for all that he has done for the NCCA.

  • Pictured from left to right are members of the Commission, Bishop Peter Ingham, ACBC President Archbishop Philip Wilson, Bishop Michael Putney, Rev John Henderson, Bishop Geoffrey Jarratt, Bishop Kevin Manning, Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs (executive secretary), and Archbishop John Bathersby.

Bishops’ Commission meets with Anglican delegation
At the conclusion of the Plenary Meeting, the Bishops Commission for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations met with members of the General Synod Ecumenical Relations Commission of the Anglican Church.
Discussion centred on a way forward for the Australian Anglican-Roman Catholic Conversation (AUSTARCC), as well as on the document, ‘Growing Together in Unity and Mission’, the document of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
The Anglican Bishops also spoke of their experience at the Lambeth Conference.

Pictured from left to right are Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett, Bishop Philip Huggins, Bishop Christopher Prowse, Rev Erica Mathieson, Bishop Michael Putney, Sr Elzabeth Delaney, Archbishop Philip Wilson, Bishop Gary Weatherill, Archdeacon Philip Newman, Bishop Doug Stevens, Bishop Kevin Manning.

ACBC Appointments

  • Conference resolved to nominate Bishop Joseph Oudeman ofm cap as its delegate for Eucharistic Congresses.
  • Mgr Tom Doyle retired as Chair of the NCEC in July after also serving as a member of the NCEC since its inception. Mrs Therese Temby took over as the new Chair, and Dr Bill Griffiths as the new Chief Executive Officer, from August 2008.
  • Conference approved the following appointments to the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC):

In addition to the (twelve) ex officio appointments to the NCEC: 
Two Bishop members from the BCCE
The eight State/Territory Commission Directors
The two Catholic University Vice Chancellors

The following:
      General Membership
–           Mr Greg Crafter (SA)
–           Mr Alan Dooley  (Victoria)
      Parent Membership
–           Dr Melinda Harris (WA)
–           Ms Danielle Cronin  (NSW)
      School Principal
–           Mr Tony Byrne (Victoria)
      Catholic  Religious Australia
–           Br Julian Casey FMS
Second nominee
Indigenous Member

[The second CRA and Indigenous nominees are yet to be finalised.  The Conference authorised the Chairman of the BCCE to make these appointments after the nominee has been approved by his/her diocesan Bishop.]

  • Dr Frances Baker has resigned from the Anglican Roman Catholic Dialogue. The Conference approved the BCEIR recommendation that Dr Anne Hunt, also presently a member of the NCCA’s Faith and Unity Commission, be appointed to this dialogue.
  • The Conference acknowledged the substantial contribution made by outgoing Catholic Social Services Australia Board members Mr Bernard Boerma and Ms Helga Biro
  • The Conference appointed Sr Mary Quinlan, rsj to the Catholic Social Services Australia Board as the Catholic Religious Australia representative for a term of three years.
  • Upon the recommendation of the Bishops Commission for Justice and Service, the Conference extended for a period of 12 months the term of appointment of current Catholic Social Services Australia Board member Mr Tony Davies.
  • In accordance with Constitution of Catholic Social Services Australia and Catholic Social Services Australia (Ltd), the Conference ratified the Constitutional amendments recommended by the 2008 Annual General Meetings.
  • In accordance with Constitution of Catholic Social Services Australia and Catholic Social Services Australia (Ltd), the Conference ratified the Board election results from the 2008 Annual General Meetings and appointed Mr Barry Sheehan and Mrs Cate Sydes to the Board(s) of Catholic Social Services Australia for three years.


Media Releases issued during the Plenary Meeting:
To see the following media releases in full, click on the hyperlinks or visit
Apostolic Nuncio recalls “grace-filled experience of WYD” in Sydney
Composers invited to submit new Mass settings for Australia
Bishops approve post WYD youth ministry blueprint