Coleridge plans to "stir up some energy" in Canberra

Newly appointed Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Mark Coleridge's "to do" list includes unifying the diocese, supporting politicians "in their noble calling" and helping revive Australia's ethical base.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Australian, Archbishop Coleridge said that top of his "to do" list is unifying the diocese, which runs from the NSW western plains, through Canberra and out to the southern NSW coast, taking in an important regional city, Goulburn. "The physical landscape suggests the human and spiritual landscape will be no less diverse," he said.

But he says his job includes a commitment to the wider Australian community and "not just to tend to the Catholic flock."

His aim is "not just to put out statements but to really get inside the culture and worlds of the public domain - the parliament, the public service, the diplomatic corps - and to support them."

The Archbishop told the national newspaper that he will not be sliding quietly into his lakeside house in the national capital and gradually building a profile. In his own words, after his installation in mid-August he is planning to hit the ground running.

Until now he has contented himself with signing, as the rest of the country's bishops do, statements on issues such as asylum seekers or industrial relations legislation. But in a week when John Howard hosed down a backbench revolt over asylum-seekers by watering down the toughest provisions of his new legislation and delaying a decision until the next parliamentary sittings, Archbishop Coleridge's views will offer little comfort.

"Every country has the right and duty to protect its borders but in a way that respects human dignity," he says. To him, that means the detention of women and children is out.

On industrial relations, he says the issue will "heat up again because there is unease in the community" and questions that remain unanswered. "It is not enough for the Government to shove it through by force of numbers," he says.

"So the Government should listen and respond, which does not mean to do what others say. There is a danger any government that has control of both houses will stop listening."

A seasoned and confident media performer, the Archbishop now has a national platform from which to operate as well as his own patch of Catholic territory to run. Clearly he relishes the challenge.

"A large part of my work in Canberra will be to try to stir up some energy," he says. "I'm not seeking to repeat the past."

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Archbishop Coleridge has welcomed the new English Mass translation and said that people will come to embrace the changes.

In 2004, the Australian bishops voted in principle to accept a new English translation of Mass that the Vatican favours as being more faithful to the original Latin text.

The final approved Australian version must still go to the Holy See, which has the last word on any changes. It could take two, probably three years, until the new text is published and put into use in Australian churches, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.

Archbishop Coleridge thinks Australian Catholics will come to embrace the changes. "It's amazing what people get used to and I think we underestimate the adaptability of ordinary people.

"Some people think that the language of worship should be the language of ordinary day speech but it never was."

From one noble call to another (The Australian 24/6/06)
Word from on high ... same in spirit, but a tad convoluted (Sydney Morning Herald 26/6/06)

Bishops respond to draft Mass translation (CathNews 14/4/04)
Mark Coleridge new Archbishop for Canberra (CathNews 20/6/06)
US Bishops approve new Mass translation (CathNews 19/6/06)
Old Rites, New Words (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 13/5/04)

27 Jun 2006