The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council
185 Pirie St Adelaide South Australia 5000
Ph: (08) 8223 5244 Fax: (08) 8223 4177 Mob: 0402 019 536
4th April 2005
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council wishes to express its most sincere sympathy on the passing of Pope John Paul II, a most revered Spiritual Leader of the World’s Catholics.
Today there is a sense of sadness and peace as we mourn the loss of a great Leader and Disciple, and celebrate the life of a man who believed in justice for people through a deep faith in Jesus. He spoke from the heart, to the hearts of many around the world. “Here is my servant whom I uphold…He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth.” [Pope John Paul II’s New Year’s greeting of 1979 and quote from Isaiah (42:1-4)]

The Holy Father was very fond of Australia and gave his Papal role a sincere human dimension through his words and actions. On the issue of Stolen Generations, the Pope apologised for the Catholic Church in his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania which in part read “The Church expresses deep regret and asks forgiveness where her children have been or still are party to these wrongs. Aware of the Shameful injustices done to the Indigenous peoples in Oceania, the synod fathers apologized unreservedly for the part played in these by members of the Church, especially where children were forcibly separated from their families.” [22 November 2001]

Pope John Paul II will especially be remembered for his visit to Alice Springs in 1986 where he walked among the crowds, holding hands and receiving many gifts from Aboriginal people, and in turn he gave us his genuine love and blessings. Aboriginal people were a part of the Church long before 1986, but when His Holiness delivered His address to the Aboriginal people of Australia, he spoke directly to us, “…the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.” [Blatherskite Park, Alice Springs 29th November 1986] His Holiness’ address nearly 20 years ago now, expressed a respect for Aboriginal culture and spirituality and assured us of the importance of faith and our culture; and so touched our hearts in such a way as to inspire a confident Indigenous peoples’ participation and role in enriching and contributing to the life of the Catholic Church in Australia.

The Council gives praise and thanks for the life of Pope John Paul II; and we celebrate his life by remembering his sincere love, compassion, challenges and inspiration to Aboriginal people of this country. He was a ‘people’s’ Pope renowned as a ‘Builder of Bridges’. His Holiness spoke directly of justice to the people who needed him most and to the rest of the world. “Where there is no justice, there can be no peace, because injustice is itself a disorder. Where there is no respect for human rights - I mean those inalienable rights which are inherent in every man by his nature - there can be no peace. Where there is no moral formation to favor the growth of good, there can be no peace, because it is always necessary to keep watch and contain the destructive tendencies which nestle in the heart of man." [Pope John Paul II’s Christmas Message 1978]
Melissa Brickel