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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2448

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (22:09): Tomorrow, 19 March, on the day of the Feast of St Joseph, His Holiness Pope Francis I will be officially installed as the 266th pope, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, who retired on 28 February. Regardless of religious beliefs, the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the installation of Pope Francis I are significant events for the world and for Australia, with 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide and around 5.4 million Catholics associated with the faith here in Australia.

Catholicism is the largest Christian faith sector in the world and the Catholic Church's presence across the world, as both a faith organisation and a provider of humanitarian services, is indeed significant. The Catholic Church, as one of the oldest institutions in the world, is also the largest non-government provider of health and medical services in the world. Here in Australia, through sectors such as Catholic education, Centacare family services and the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Church has become a mainstream provider of education and welfare services.

Pope Benedict's retirement was in itself significant, with the last pope to retire in office being Pope Gregory XII in 1415. By declaring his human limitations and retiring, I believe that Pope Benedict elevated his standing as a man of the people. His retirement was, however, a cause for sadness for his followers around the world, perhaps none more so than the German people of the world, for whom his election as pope on 19 April 2005 would have brought considerable joy because of his German heritage.

Significantly for Australia, Pope Benedict presided over the canonisation of the first saint from Australia, St Mary of the Cross, on 17 October 2010. Born in Fitzroy, Victoria in 1842, St Mary MacKillop moved to South Australia in 1861 and later, with Father Julian Tenison Woods, established Australia's first free Catholic schools and a number of welfare institutions around the country.

In July 2008, Pope Benedict came to Australia, where he met with young people at the World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney. It was during that visit that he made a historic full apology to victims of child sexual abuse. I travelled to Sydney at the time with my wife, Vicki, to represent the government at a World Youth Day event and I joined tens of thousands of people in welcoming Pope Benedict to Australia at Sydney Harbour. A strong advocate for supporting the world's poor, Pope Benedict XVI condemned excessive consumerism, particularly amongst young people. He also sought to enter into dialogue with other religious groups. Perhaps he will be best remembered for his advocacy of social justice and for the effort he put in to heal rifts within the Catholic Church, Christianity and the broader faith community.

I also take this opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate the election of His Holiness Pope Francis. Born in Argentina of Italian parents, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now better known as Pope Francis, is the first Jesuit to be elected pope. Equally notably, he is the first pontiff to come from South America, where Catholicism is the dominant faith. He has been described as a man of humble origins and rare humility, already showing that he prefers to continue to live a simple life. However, he takes the role at a difficult time for the church, with criticism over its handling of several matters and also at a time that the Catholic faith is expanding into new parts of the world, where there is significant poverty, along with economic, social and environmental challenges. The recent suppression of, and violence towards, Catholics in Africa, Indonesia and the Middle East will also be difficult matters for him to deal with, as are calls for reforms of the Catholic Church's internal administration. I join with the Prime Minister and others in this place in extending my good wishes to Pope Francis as he embarks on his responsibilities ahead.

At the commencement of my speech, I mentioned the day of the Feast of St Joseph, so I also take this opportunity to mention the St Joseph's Day feast in the city of Salisbury. Yesterday, as I have done for many years, I attended the annual event, organised by the Italian Catholic community in Salisbury and held at the St Joseph's Cultural Centre. As usual, it was a wonderful day of festivities, and I congratulate Sam Garreffa and his committee for their tireless efforts in organising the day's events and in organising the event each year. It is a terrific community event and one that certainly brings the Italian culture to the rest of the community. My congratulations to all involved.