Speech at the National Museum Australia

6.00pm THURSDAY 19 APRIL 2018

Dear friends,

I send you all encouraging greetings from the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.  Also, in my capacity in the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference as Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Ecumenism Inter-Religious Dialogue, I send you greetings from the entire Catholic Community in support of this wonderful initiative.  We send particular greetings and welcome to our friends from the Vatican Anima Mundi Museum of World Arts and Cultures and its Director Fr Nicola Mapelli.

Australians generally consider Australia to be one of the most successful multicultural societies on earth.

This important claim, to which most of us would agree, is a treasure that needs to be constantly re-appropriated.  This is surely a challenge in secular Australia which can too readily and too sharply separate Faith from Culture.

But a deeper insight into multicultural Australia indicates that the glue that safeguards multicultural Australia from fracturing is the Religious Sentiment and Religious Faith of those that come to these shores – so many from highly Religious cultures.

Although Faith and Culture are to be distinguished from each other they are never to be separated.  Secular Australia runs the risk of choosing one to the neglect of the other.  This is a real challenge to a mature multiculturalism.

This wonderful exhibition celebrates the fact of the dance between Faith and Culture.  It celebrates it not simply by words or philosophy, but in our shared cultural heritage – especially in this particular instance with Faith and Culture in Islam.

The coming together of treasured cultural artefacts from the Vatican Museum, the Sharjah Museums Authority and the National Museum Australia is, in itself, a symbol of unity to strengthen multiculturalism in this new but ancient land of Australia.

Certainly one highlight of the exhibition for me is its title: coming from the Koran….”So That You Might Know Each Other.”  May the title of the exhibition become more and more a lived reality and may all that is celebrated in this exhibition symbolise the unity that we strive for in our wonderful land of Australia.

Indeed, if you would allow me, my hope is that not simply “So That You Might Know Each Other” but that this will lead onto deeper levels: that we might respect each other; that we might befriend each other; and indeed that we might love each other.  By so doing we become true peace makers, in this beautiful city of Canberra and in this fair land of Australia.  We become peace makers not only for our land but indeed for the wider world in the fragile times in which we live.  This is my hope, this is my dream and this is my prayer.  Thank you.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn