Pope tells theologian he's coming to Australia

When pressed earlier this month by Fr Tony Kelly of the Australian Catholic University, Pope Benedict XVI gave his assurance that he will be visiting Sydney for World Youth Day 2008, "God willing".

Fr Kelly, who lectures at the University's McAuley Campus in Brisbane, was in Rome for the meeting of the International Theological Commission.

The Commission's 30 members were each presented to Pope Benedict. His Brisbane colleague Yuri Koszarycz provided Kelly's account of his encounter with the Holy Father.

"He knew us all from previous meetings at which, in his previous role, he was often present in his role as President of the plenary sessions," he said. "Last year it was he who presented us to Pope John Paul; this year Archbishop Levada presented us to him."

Fr Kelly said that the Pope was "most relaxed and unassuming, with a word for each one, as he switched from one language to another".

"When it came to my turn, he immediately got onto the planned Sydney World Youth Day in 2008. Needless to say, I expressed our Australian hopes that he would be coming. He said, 'Well, I'll be eighty one then'. After a few more pleasant exchanges he assured me he would be coming, 'God willing'."

It has been hoped that Pope Benedict would commit to visiting Australia for World Youth Day. It was even reported in OCtober that Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart and Cardinal George Pell are lobbying the Vatican for a Melbourne stop during the visit.

Fr Kelly was a prime mover in the Commission's discussions on limbo, a theory which the it recommended should be consigned to history.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, he explained that "the limbo hypothesis was the common teaching of the church until the 1950s. In the past 50 years, it was just quietly dropped.

"We all smiled a bit when we were presented with this question, but then we saw how many important questions it opened," including questions about the power of God's love, the existence of original sin and the need for baptism, he said.

"Pastorally and catechetically, the matter had been solved" with an affirmation that somehow God in his great love and mercy would ensure unbaptized babies enjoyed eternal life with him in heaven, "but we had to backtrack and do the theology," Father Kelly said.

A conviction that babies who died without baptism go to heaven was not something promoted only by people who want to believe that God saves everyone no matter what they do.

From Fr Tony Kelly CSsR (December 2005)
Closing the doors of limbo: Theologians say it was hypothesis (Catholic News Service 2/12/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Youth Day 2008
Australian Catholic University School of Theology (McAuley Campus)

Premier Bracks invites Pope to Melbourne (CathNews 10/10/05)

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22 Dec 2005