On 29th November 1986, Pope St John Paul II gave a very famous message to all Australians at a gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Alice Springs. A couple of years ago Pope Francis urged Australians not to forget this message. On the weekend when we mark Australia Day it is good to remember this message. He said: “Your culture, which shows the lasting genius and dignity of your race, must not be allowed to disappear. Do not think that your gifts are worth so little that you should no longer bother to maintain them. Share them with each other and teach them to your children. Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, you languages, must never be lost. Do you perhaps remember those words that Paul VI spoke to the aboriginal people during his visit to them in 1970? On that occasion he said: “We know that you have a lifestyle proper to your own ethnic genius or culture – a culture which the Church respects and which she does not in any way ask you to renounce….Society itself is enriched by the presence of different cultural and ethnic elements. For us you and the values you represent are precious. We deeply respect your dignity and reiterate our deep affection for you.”
Pope John Paul, and more recently Pope Francis, have urged all Australians to help protect and cherish the heritage and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of our nation.
May God bless you all, Fr Denis