We Love the Vatican Ii, Say St Mary's Parishioners

By Tony Moore
Brisbane Times

August 25, 2008

A crowd of almost 500 parishioners sang the anthemic “We are Called” as an emotion-charged meeting at St Mary's Catholic church came to a dramatic close last night.

The group had come together to debate a challenge from Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby, who this week called on the popular church, with a parish of more than 700, to toe the Catholic line or close.

It is the second time in four years Archbishop Bathersby has questioned the church’s behaviour.

St Mary’s champions social justice issues, embraces homosexual couples and allows women to preach.

Last night’s meeting heard from more than 30 St Mary’s parishioners, some of whom have been coming to the Merivale Street church for more than 25 years.

Apart from a short address about democracy, parish priest Father Peter Kennedy did not speak, sitting through the meeting beside the altar, listening to the debate.

Parishioners, all wearing a sticker which read “I love the Vatican II”, crammed into the church, peering in from the doors on either side.

Many waited almost 30 minutes to have their voice heard on the debate, convened by church representative Karyn Walsh.

At the end of the 90-minute gathering, the church parish accepted a recommendation to respond in detail to Archbishop Bathersby’s questions.

However, a rough draft was declined because it did not suit the “tone of the meeting”.

The parish will form four committees to research answers to what the parishioners describe as Archbishop Bathersby’s four main areas of concern.

They will by Sunday nominate people to address questions of faith, questions of the church’s liturgy, its governance and its recognition of authority.

Archbishop Bathersby said yesterday the church had a choice.

“They either want to belong to the Roman Catholic Church, or they want to start their own church,” he told ABC radio.

“In the area of liturgy, they make up their own rules in the way they worship God.”

Speaker after speaker told the meeting that they felt the church was a Catholic parish and that a response to Archbishop’s Bathersby’s letter should be “respectful and dignified.”

People came from Bribie Island and Southport to express their opinion.

Several questioned why Archbishop Bathersby had likened the parish to the Hillsong Church.

However others acknowledged that the church had some controversial areas, which needed examination.

“We do have a radical point of view in terms of Christian prayer,” one parishioner said.

“And we have to confront the issues that the Archbishop has raised.”

Premier Anna Bligh, who is also the local MP, said she hoped the parishioners could resolve the outstanding matters.

"People are very proud of this parish and it's a very important part of their lives and in their faith,'' Ms Bligh said.

"St Mary's Church is very important to literally hundreds of people.

"It's not my business to intervene in discussions within the Catholic church but I just say I do hope that a solution can be found that satisfies everybody, because I do know how important this church is to every person who is part of it.''


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