Conference gathers to remember John Paul's Indigenous dream anniversary

Pope Benedict is sending Cardinal Edward Cassidy as Papal Legate to an Alice Springs gathering this week to mark the 20th anniversary of John Paul II's landmark 1986 speech to Indigenous Australians.

More than 600 people from Australia and New Zealand are gathering in Alice Springs this week for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council's (NATSICC) "Dreaming from the Heart" Assembly.

Sydney-born Cardinal Cassidy, who was previously president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity will deliver a message from the Pope at the closing Mass on Saturday afternoon.

NATSICC national administrator Craig Arthur said the Assembly follows a tremendously successful Message Stick relay across Australia and will focus on "the growth and progress of Aboriginal and Islander people over the past 20 years as well as youth".

Bishop Brian Heenan of the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders said the event would be a wonderful celebration.

"This is a unique event that gathers together and provides a forum for people to celebrate all that indigenous culture brings to the Catholic Church in Australia," he said.

"It will also allow us to look at how we can continually strive to do better when it comes to truly embracing the gifts of our indigenous brothers and sisters, while acknowledging also the hurts and the challenges they face."

The Anniversary Mass and Concert on Saturday will be celebrated at the location of Pope John Paul II's Address in Alice Springs - Blatherskite Park - and will include performances and talks by people that were there on the day in 1986.

Meanwhile, Online Catholics reports that Australian Catholic University (ACU National) staff member Stephanie Jacob has been named one of only five people in Australia to receive a 2006 Indigenous Staff Scholarship.

Ms Jacob, a research support staff at ACU National in Brisbane, was presented with the $32,600 scholarship at the University of Western Australian in Perth by the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Ms Julie Bishop.

Ms Jacob plans to complete her honours in an Indigenous primary healthcare-related course next year. She hopes for a career in Indigenous health, or to be a lecturer within a university.

'Dreaming from the Heart' indigenous gathering in Alice Springs this week (NATSICC Media release, 1/10/06)
Indigenous scholarship boost (Online Catholics, Issue 124, 4/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council

John Paul's 1986 Indigenous message still challenges (CathNews, 30/8/06)
Message Stick visits Taree, NSW (CathNews, 15/6/06)
Brisbane Archdiocese welcomes Message Stick (CathNews, 27/2/06)
Delivery of the Message Stick (Fr Frank Brennan SJ, 30/7/06)

4 Oct 2006