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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 911

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:00): Australia's Catholics and their many friends received remarkable news overnight that his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will resign in coming weeks. You would have to have lived several hundred years to have heard news like that. The Pope's announcement marks a genuinely historic moment which many Australian Catholics will greet with great emotion. Many Australians saw Pope Benedict for his visit here during the church's World Youth Day in 2008—and I am sure many members remember the scenes and the crowds on that visit. Thousands of others travelled to Rome in 2010 to see him declare Mother Mary MacKillop as our nation's first saint, Saint Mary of the Cross, and that was a time of jubilation across the nation. They will miss him.

Australia's Catholic community has made an enormous contribution to our nation in absolutely every field of life, but our thoughts naturally turn to the contribution in school education, health care and relief for the most disadvantaged in our society. I personally think of Mary MacKillop who, as the Pope put it when he was canonising her, attended the needs of each young person entrusted to her without regard to station or wealth. I think too of my own party. Our historic achievements and enduring purpose are unimaginable without the influence of the Catholic tradition. Since 2008 Australia has had an accredited ambassador resident in the Vatican State, reflecting the importance of the many global issues in which the Catholic Church is so vitally engaged.

Whoever is elected to take Pope Benedict's place the Catholic Church will remain one of the most important human institutions, containing within it all the strengths and faults of its hundreds of millions of believers while facing all of the challenges of the modern world. My thoughts today are with Australia's Catholic community as they prepare for Ash Wednesday tomorrow and the season of Lent and as they live through what will be a historic coming few weeks.