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We are all in the 'field hospital'


At the conclusion of the first Gulf War, the United States held a parade in Washington DC to proclaim its victory. This included a huge military display of tanks, armoured cars and aeroplanes in the city centre so visitors could see the weapons they had used to win the war.

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In the middle of the display there was a field hospital made of plastic and glass which contained everything needed to provide the best care for the wounded. People could look through the glass and see the operating theatres and recovery areas where patients would go before being discharged to begin their new life.

Pope Francis tells us that the Church is to be like a field hospital. What he means is, of course, that all of us belong in this field hospital and our responsibility is to welcome those who are wounded and suffer, to care for them, to give them the chance to make a new start in life.

When looking at the model of a field hospital, there could be a sense of looking at ourselves as the people who operate the hospital and we take others in and we work on them and help them to grow and develop and get over their problems. But I think a much richer notion of the field hospital is that we are all in it. All of us come to the hospital and live in the Church –wounded and with difficulty, imperfect and sinful.

In the process of being in the field hospital together, we have an opportunity through the experience of Word and sacrament to be healed, to be strengthened, to find new ways to give witness to the Lord as we live in the world today.

Some people say in the wake of the Royal Commission and all that we’ve gone through and the revelation of our own weaknesses that somehow we are in the position now where we are so weak we can’t do any good. What those people don’t understand is the nature of the Church and the nature of our relationship with Jesus.

We are in the field hospital as wounded and sinful people. We are a people who’ve made mistakes. We continue to make mistakes because that’s what it’s like being the disciples of the Lord.

But as the disciples of the Lord today we have the opportunity to do something new and wonderful for God by allowing ourselves to be reconciled and converted to the Gospel in a new way.

In the field hospital that we live in today, we need to look closely at Jesus, with love and to allow him to love us so that we are better able to be his witnesses.

In the Archdiocese of Adelaide we are involved in a process of renewal and all of us – priests, deacons and lay people – are committed to and dedicated to allowing Christ to be alive and active in the world through our community and our life in a new and special way.

This is an edited version of the Archbishop’s homily at the Chrism Mass entitled ‘The Church as field hospital’. The full text can be found on his homilies page at


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