The Bishops of Australia met recently and have written a “Word of Encouragement” during this Covid-19 pandemic.
The sending down of the Holy Spirit on the nascent Church filled them with joy and strengthened their faith. We all need an infilling of this joy and faith in our own tough times too.
The Bishops mention the tremendous solidarity people have demonstrated in the pandemic, particularly healthcare workers who have shown “an exceptional spirit of self-sacrifice.”
Churches are beginning to reopen to small numbers. “Our doors may be closed but our hearts are still open”, the letter states. We notice “your deep desire to return to the sacraments and to resume public worship. There is a real hunger for this.”
In this month of May, devoted to Mary, the Bishops note: “At the heart of the community of disciples, even behind closed doors, there is always Mary the mother of Jesus (cf Acts 1:14).” Recently we entrusted Australia to Mary under the title of Our Lady Help of Christians, the patroness of Australia.
The Bishops observed that, “the experience of the shutdown has stirred great energy and creativity among people and pastors”. While keen to reopen churches, we also want to keep some of the great lessons of these times regarding our missionary discipleship as an Archdiocese particularly with online pastoral services.
The Bishops are speaking with state and federal government about the reopening of churches. Many of you are keen and may wish to bring this to the attention of your local political leaders.
At least two crucial areas of our Catholic life have been strangely enhanced by the pandemic.
First, there is the refreshed acknowledgement that families are crucial to Catholic life and the health of society. We have been spending more time at home and while this can be a challenge we have seen the priority of family life. St John Paul II liked to teach that society comes through the family.
Secondly, our greater reliance on electronic means to nourish our faith has led us to appreciate the national and international dimensions of Catholicism. On any day we can choose Mass with Pope Francis, Archbishop Christopher or our Parish Priest. It helps us to experience our universal Church more deeply.
I hope you will be able to read the bishops letter written with much pastoral love.