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Aboriginal leader 'honoured' to attend Synod


Adelaide Indigenous community leader John Lochowiak says he is "honoured" and "overwhelmed" to be among 10 Catholics from the Oceania region chosen to participate in the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome.

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Announcing the names of non-bishop members from Oceania going to the Synod in October, Bishop Anthony Randazzo, president of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania, said they would help “amplify the voice of the Catholic population”.

Mr Lochowiak, chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, is one of only five Australian representatives other than the bishops, who include Adelaide Archbishop Patrick O’Regan, Bishop Shane Mackinlay (Sandhurst), Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB (Perth) and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP (Sydney).

A participant in the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, Mr Lochowiak said it was a great honour to be selected.

“It’s overwhelming, I’ve never even been to Europe and to be able to represent Aboriginal Catholics in Rome is huge,” the Wadi (initiated) man and father of four told The Southern Cross.  

“It’s significant because there is so much happening in Australia with the Voice to Parliament and for the Pope to be listening and in touch with what’s going on here is really fitting.

“My family’s connection with the Church has always been very strong, and that makes this is even more important to me personally.

“For me it’s about all of us as one.”

Earlier this year, Pope Francis invited each of the seven regions of the world to nominate 20 people who have been involved in local initiatives for the Synod of Bishops for a Synodal Church as possible additions to the Synod’s membership.

Pope Francis chose 10 members from each region from the list of nominees, seeking to create a cross-section of the Church in terms of age, sex, vocation and other demographic factors.

“There was no shortage of faithful and qualified people in Oceania who could bring their lived experience to the two sessions of the Synod of Bishops in October this year and October next year,” said Bishop Randazzo.

“Our region is one of the most diverse in the world, when you consider the 20 or so nations in this corner of the globe. That diversity enriches the Church in Oceania and it will do so at the Synod gatherings in Rome.”

The 10 Oceania non-bishop members appointed by Pope Francis are: Mr Manuel Beazley, New Zealand; Dr Trudy Dantis, Australia; Mr Lochowiak, Australia; Fr Denis Nacorda, New Zealand; Mrs Kelly Paget, Australia; Sr Mary Angela Perez RSM, Pacific; Fr Sijeesh Pullenkunnel, Syro-Malabar Eparchy; Dr Susan Sela, Pacific; Ms Grace Wrakia, Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands; Professor Renee Kohler-Ryan, Australia.

Brief biographies on each of the members can be found here.

Those members will join the following bishop members from Oceania, chosen by their episcopal conferences, who will participate in the Synod:

Australia: Bishop Mackinlay; Archbishop O’Regan
New Zealand: Archbishop Paul Martin SM
Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands: Bishop Dariusz Kaluza MSF
CEPAC (Pacific): Bishop Paul Donoghue SM

Archbishop Costelloe, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, will serve as one of nine delegated Synod presidents and Archbishop Fisher will participate in the Synod as a member of the Council of the Synod of Bishops.

Bishop Randazzo, as president of the FCBCO, will also attend the Synod sessions along with other presidents of continental episcopal conferences.

The Catholic Church in Oceania has been seeking ways to work more collaboratively to carry out Christ’s mission in the region, Bishop Randazzo explained.

The Synod of Bishops process, through its integration into this year’s assembly of the FCBCO and now the additional representation at the Synod sessions, has assisted in that effort.

“With Pope Francis’ leadership and his assistance, we have been invited into the Synod of Bishops at a local, a national and a regional level, and we now move to the international phase,” Bishop Randazzo said.

“By working with the other episcopal conferences in Oceania and with our Eastern brothers and sisters, we have been able to embrace this idea of ‘walking together’, seeing how the Church in our region can respond to the call for communion, participation and mission.”

Five experts and facilitators have also been appointed from Oceania: Dr Sandie Cornish; Br Ian Cribb SJ; Adjunct Professor Susan Pascoe, who served on the Synod of Bishops’ methodology commission; Fr Asaeli Raass SVD; and Fr Ormond Rush, who served on the Synod of Bishops’ theological commission. Brief biographies can also be found for the experts and facilitators here.

Bishop Randazzo said the inclusion of that group of experts demonstrates the esteem with which the Synod Secretariat holds theologians and other leading thinkers in the Church in Oceania.

“We are a young Church in comparison to many other parts of the world, but we are a Church of people of many and varied talents, which will now feature more prominently on the global stage,” he said.

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