Blue Mountains Gazette
26 Feb 2017
GOUGH Whitlam wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in October, 2012, nearly four decades after his government granted formal diplomatic recognition to the Vatican, and only weeks before another Labor prime minister, Julia Gillard, established a royal commission that would expose the extent of child sexual abuse within the Australian Catholic Church.
Diplomatic relations with the Vatican from 1973 was a “memorable and significant initiative” of his government, Whitlam told the Pope. The relationship was one “which has always been maintained with deep mutual respect and consideration”.
“The mutual hopes for closer relations between the Holy See and Australia have been fulfilled in abundance. I shall always have fond memories of visiting Pope Paul VI and of the great enchantment of Rome, the Eternal City,” one of the Labor Party’s great reformers wrote.
Whitlam died two years later, on October 21, 2014, only three months after Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin declined a request from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for files of all Australian alleged perpetrator priests held by the Vatican.
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said the files would help commissioners understand the extent of allegations referred to the Vatican, and action taken by the church in each case.
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