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Professor criticises Redfern charity withdrawal

Sydney University Community Medicine Professor Stephen Leeder has sharply criticised the Archdiocesan Charitable Works Fund (CWF) for withdrawing funds for a twice-weekly meal for the poor in the Redfern Parish, and for covering up what he believes is the real reason for the action.

The Fund has stopped providing $200 per week used to support a meal distributed in St Vincent's Church on Tuesdays and Fridays to some 300 largely itinerant Indigenous people.

Professor Leeder, who is also Director of the Australian Health Policy Institute, told today's Online Catholics that the contribution of the Fund, and St Vincent's Parish, had been "among the more honourable responses of our society to the complex needs of our often destitute Indigenous people".

CWF chair Monsignor Kerry Bayada told Online Catholics that the cut was due to the fact that there are other services accessible to indigenous people in Redfern.

But Professor Leeder argued that it is apparent that it is consequence of a change in theological position, from that of longtime parish priest Fr Ted Kennedy to that of the current parish priest Fr Gerry Prindiville of The Neocatechumenal Way.

Parishioner Kate Gavern said the means are "not just about supplying food, but about giving and receiving friendship and care".

She said the itinerant nature of the clientele makes it difficult for them to access other services.

Tensions in the parish were the subject of an ABC Radio National documentary on Sunday. Parishioner Mary McMahon told the program that Fr Prindiville indicated that he objects to the means because "he doesn't think it's appropriate that we are in the church".

The meal has been compared to similar offerings in inner city churches around the world, including New York's St Paul's and St Andrew's Uniting Methodist and Melbourne's Sacred Heart Mission at St Kilda.

Mary McMahon told the ABC: "You can see people sit around and talk, it's not just taking a sandwich and going, or anything like that; it is a real sharing of the community spirit."

CWF uncharitable toward Aboriginal People (Online Catholics 28/7/04)

Archdiocese of Sydney Charitable Works Fund
Poor Church (ABC Radio National Encounter 25/7/04)
Parish of St Vincent de Paul, Redfern
Redfern Church Mouse
The Neocatechumenal Way
The Neocatechumenal Way - Australia
Sydney priest still struggling to win congregation's loyalty (CathNews 24/9/03)
Pell acts to resolve Redfern priest crisis (CathNews 21/7/03)

28 Jul 2004