Catholics urged to ‘prayerfully consider’ Voice Referendum

Catholic Bishops have urged Australians to see the truth of what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have suffered and the disadvantage many experience to this day, as the country heads towards a Referendum on the Voice.

“Justice demands that we seek to rectify this disadvantage,” the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) statement said.

“Australians are now being asked to consider a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice as one way to address this disadvantage.”

The statement noted the Voice was asked for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, with hope that it would not only offer constitutional recognition, but also assist progress towards a more just and equitable Australia, helping to tackle not just the symptoms but the causes of chronic disadvantage.

“We urge all Australians to listen to the hopes and fears of each other,” the ACBC statement read.

“We urge people to act in a way that commits to redressing the disadvantage suffered by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and will allow them to reach their potential, thus promoting reconciliation for the good not just of some but of the whole nation. May the Holy Spirit who opens locked doors give us light and strength to keep working for a better and more equitable Australia. Let us walk together.”

Archbishop Christopher Prowse said the main point of the Bishops’ statement was for all Catholics to prayerfully consider the ethical and moral issues surrounding the vote, and not simply the political considerations.

“The call is for us to use these weeks to educate and form our consciences on this matter and vote accordingly,” he said.

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“Perhaps we could start by applying afresh Pope St John Paul II’s famous speech to Aboriginal Australia at Alice Springs (1986) to this referendum. A most memorable statement this was: ‘What has been done cannot be undone but what can be done to remedy the deeds of yesterday must not be put off till tomorrow.’”

Archbishop Prowse said being born an Aboriginal person today placed the person in a highly disadvantaged position as an Australian.

“Surely there have been some wonderful advances to diminish such disadvantage, especially in education, however on so many other basic social indicators the statistics still indicate an appalling human situation persists,” he said.

“Here our communal responsibility to respond to this social and structural diseased intergenerational situation requires careful consideration before voting in the referendum. This requires the deep, prayerful informing of our individual and communal conscience.”