Church "drawn into politics" by accepting Govt hospitality

The Australian newspaper today quotes a "senior Catholic MP" who has labelled South Australia's two most senior church officials "political harlots and goons" for accepting state Government sponsorship for a next week's World Day of the Sick in Adelaide, five weeks before the 18 March election.

Outgoing Liberal Legislative Councillor Julian Stefani claims he spoke for many Catholics when he urged Archbishop Philip Wilson and Vicar-General David Cappo to "throw out their collars and nominate for a Labor seat".

Two state ministers, along with the Archbishop, have also issued a joint invitation for a civic reception for international Catholic dignitaries on 9 February.

Mental Health Minister Carmel Zollo also gave $10,000 in sponsorship to a conference for the three-day international Catholic event, the 9-11 February World Day of the Sick.

Asked whether the church was compromised by accepting state government sponsorship and hospitality, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Church's Adelaide diocese said the Government and Adelaide City Council were "extending their hospitality" to a papal emissary by holding civic receptions.

"This form of protocol is not uncommon throughout Australia for officials visiting from another country," the spokeswoman said.

A background statement from the Archdiocese issued last week says Pope Benedict XVI has chosen Adelaide to host the 14th World Day of the Sick to draw attention to the plight of millions of sick people across the world and to specifically focus on mental health and human dignity.

Highlights of the three-day event include:
* A conference on the World Day of the Sick 2006 theme "mental health and human dignity'' on February 9 - only days before the historic Council of Australian Governments' meeting to discuss a national mental health strategy;
* More than 1000 people, including bishops from across the Asia-Pacific region, clergy from around Australia and members of the public are expected to attend a special Mass in Adelaide's St Francis Xavier's Cathedral on February 11. During the Mass: Pope Benedict's World Day of the Sick 2006 message will be read, 30 people chosen from across Adelaide will be anointed with holy oil and a special blessing for the sick will be given.

World Day of the Sick was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II to bring attention to human suffering and to recognise the vital role of carers of the sick. The first World Day of the Sick was celebrated at the Marian Shrine of Lourdes in France in 1993 and is held each year on February 11 to coincide with the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Church chiefs 'harlots' over Rann links (The Australian 1/2/06)
Global religious event in Adelaide next week (Archdiocese of Adelaide 30/1/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Day of the Sick

Wollongong priest to link mental health with human dignity (CathNews 24/1/06)
Personalities aid World Day of Sick mental illness focus (CathNews 9/1/06)
Pope announces mental health focus for Adelaide World Day of Sick (CathNews 9/12/05)
Adelaide to host World Day of the Sick (CathNews 30/9/05)
Cameroon hosting today's World Day of the Sick (CathNews 11/2/05)
Lourdes celebrates World Day of the Sick (CathNews 10/2/04)
Call for better community care for aged on World Day of the Sick (CathNews 11/2/03)

1 Feb 2006