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Bishop to push Govt on asylum seekers in Catholic schools

Bishop Eugene Hurley of Port Pirie is pressing the Federal Government to let asylum seeker children from the Baxter Detention Centre attend the local Catholic school, saying he is distressed by the messages that emerged from Port Augusta last week.

The city's mayor, Joy Baluch, says strong community opposition has stalled the Federal Government's plans for Baxter children to study at local state schools.

Ms Baluch said Bishop Hurley should steer clear of politics. "The church needs to get back to its aim, which is to get people back to church," she said.

But Bishop Hurley says asylum seekers are welcome in the church's schools and hopes to get them into the local Caritas Catholic College.

Caritas principal Catherine Mead said the Immigration Department rejected the school's offer to educate detainee children, saying they had an arrangement with the state Education Department.

"I certainly want to correct the impression that the Catholic schools would be opposed to that in anyway," Bishop Hurley said. "In fact, we'd be quite anxious to make them welcome at our school and to make sure that children who are so innocent in all these matters are getting a good education and having a sense of their own dignity and being part of the wider community."

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said Caritas College could be a last resort, but detainees had opposed enrolling their children in Melbourne Catholic and Anglican schools in the past.

At Woomera, 185km north of Port Augusta, area administrator Bob McKenzie was keen for children from the local detention centre to enrol in the local school for the first time, in a bid to keep the centre open.
Until now, children from the centre have attended St Michael's Catholic school in the town.

ABC/The Australian (payment required)

Woomera detainees appeal to Port Pirie Catholic youth (15/5/02)


Pope John Paul II appealed on Sunday for a "spirit of acceptance" towards immigrants, and for emigrants to respect the laws of the country welcoming them.

"It is important that the spirit of acceptance be [spread], translated in social conduct of care, especially for the needy," he said. "Everyone is called to contribute to the improvement of the world, beginning in one's own ambit of life and action."

In particular, the Pope appealed to "families, associations, ecclesial and civil communities" to become "more and more schools of hospitality, of civil coexistence, of fruitful dialogue."

"As for immigrants, they must know how to respect the laws of the state that has welcomed them and thus contribute to a better integration in the new social context."

"In welcoming every man in Christ," the Pope explained, "God made himself an 'emigrant' in the paths of time to take the Gospel of love and peace to all. In contemplating this mystery, how can one not open oneself to welcome and recognise that every human being is a son of the one heavenly Father and, therefore, is our brother?"


19 Nov 2002