Jewish Christian dialogue
INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS GIVEN BY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2017
ACT NATIONAL JEWISH MEMORIAL CENTRE
31 NATIONAL CIRCUIT, FORREST ACT
I’ve been asked to make some introductory comments tonight on the title of our Jewish Christian dialogue “The transmission of faith and action in the modern world.”
Before I do that, could I thank the ACT Jewish Community for inviting us all here today.
Christian Jewish dialogue has advanced in the most incredibly positive way in the last fifty years. Particularly since the documents of the Vatican II Council, Catholics and Jesus have enjoyed a real spring time of opening up to each other and learning from each other like never before. We have been hampered with two thousand years of largely negative history towards each other, however, in these decades a new springtime chapter has certainly dawned! We thank God so sincerely for this.
In regard to the topic of tonight, let us reflect on belief in Australia.
We all love Australia. Especially in this beautiful spring weather it is easy to see why Australia is the tourist envy of the world! We are an ancient but new people. Earlier this year further Aboriginal Rock Paintings have been discovered in Northern Australia that go back up to sixty thousand years! At the same time we are a new pluri-cultural society with the whole world now gathered here on our shores. The current public debates pertaining to marriage and family and life show us that we are trying to work through incredibly important issues that will help define ourselves in the years ahead. We are asking ourselves, what kind of nation do we really want to be?
One aspect of emerging Australia that concerns faith people like Christians and Jews is in regard to the transmission of faith to younger generations.
A troubling aspect we can observe regarding our emerging Australia can be phrased in the following question: Are we producing a culture without God or even against God?
The Census of 2016 indicated that in Australia almost a third of Australians are putting down on the census that they have “no religion.” Secular Australia is rampant! It almost seems to be “fashionable” that if religion is a priority it’s to be lived out in a very private world.
Also we see the rise of new types of ideologies many of which are atheistic. There seems to be a certain aggression, indifference or defiance against belief in Australia from some quarters. This is a most challenging newer element in Australia.
Of course, the great paradox here is as follows: Attempts to place God aside tends to replace God with many “gods.” (eg. Materialism and “my choice” ideologies).
I’m reminded of the famous quote from the English poet and philosopher of the 20th Century G.K. Chesterton when he said “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.”
Indeed, the real problem in Australia is not Atheism but Idolatry.
It’s not the belief in no God it’s the belief in any type of “god” that takes the attention of people’s passing imagination.
We are all people of faith here tonight. Our task in Australia must be to be united in offering to all Australians the wisdom of the ages. And the wisdom of the ages is as follows: You cannot live fully human lives without God!
But how do we transmit this saving news? It must never be imposed but must be ceaselessly, persuasively and lovingly proposed to Australians today.
Let us ask for courage from God tonight on the way forward.
God, as always, leads us. May we be united in a common purpose and a common mind as we advance with hope in the fragile times ahead in our society of great fluidity on all matter of humanity.
Once again, many thanks for inviting me to be with you tonight.