The Cardinal's reflections on 2003
All up Cardinal Pell saw 2003 as "another good year" for Australia with mixed blessings for the Church: "Probably 2003 saw more public criticism of the Catholic Church than any year since Federation. Ironically more young men started studying for the priesthood in Sydney in early 2003 than in any year for 20 or 30 years."
Following is the text of his end of year reflection published in the Sunday Telegraph.
For lucky Australia, it was another good year
By + Cardinal George Pell
Archbishop of Sydney
4 January 2004
We have seen out the old year 2003 and for most Australians it wasn't too bad. We are still a lucky country.
Someone once wrote that coincidences are events where God remains anonymous. In that sense Australia is blessed by hard work, wisdom and many happy coincidences.
The year ended where it began, in the Middle East, with the devestating earthquake in Iran. At the start of the year, attention was focussed on an anticipated war in Iraq, where victory followed quickly.
Terrorist violence has proved much harder to eliminate, but the capture of Saddam Hussein was a boost for all people of good will, all democrats. I was surprised how pleased and relieved I was by his imprisonment. It would be another boost if Osama bin Laden could be soon captured.
The flow of illegal boat people has been checked, at least for the moment. But some unfortunates still remain in prison after many months, perhaps years. Our policy is too tough. Everyone should be processed quickly.
It is disturbing when Australian courts rule that it should be of no relevance to the Australian government that refugees are being returned to imprisonment, perhaps even to violence and death in their country of origin. This is not the true Australia speaking - and if this is what our legislation requires, it should be changed.
It is one thing to insist that all immigrants and refugees should follow proper procedures to come here. It is quite different, and awful, when genuine asylum seekers come to us, flee here outside the system, are caught, imprisoned for months or years and then told that it does not matter to us at all what their fate might be when they are returned.
This is not only ungenerous; it is unjust. Victims of oppression usually make loyal and productive citizens, when they are welcomed, treated fairly and helped.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the Prime Minister continued to dominate Federal politics, while the election of a new Opposition Leader brought a surge of excitement and twinges of apprehension.
Probably 2003 saw more public criticism of the Catholic Church than any year since Federation. Ironically more young men started studying for the priesthood in Sydney in early 2003 than in any year for 20 or 30 years.
2003 was a quieter year for the Christian Churches, even with the resignation of Archbishop Hollingworth as Governor General and the unfortunate decisions here and in the United States to ordain active homosexuals.
The health of Pope John Paul II continues to decline, although he created 30 new cardinals from around the world, so that Australia was in the unusual situation of having three cardinals, wildly disproportionate to our 5 million Catholics from one billion world-wide.
The sports news was mixed. Hewitt slipped in the rankings, the Wallabies nearly stole the World Cup from England and thrashed New Zealand, Brisbane continued supreme in the A.F.L. and India showed that our cricket supremacy is under threat.
All in all there have been many worse years and Australia remained a marvellous place to live for most of us.
Archdiocese of Sydney website
6 Jan 2004