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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1539

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (12:17): I am pleased to be able to make some comments in this place on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. As a Catholic with an interest in theology as well as liturgy, I am very aware of the significant influence the Pope has had both in his contributions in his role as Cardinal Ratzinger and latterly in his role as Pope of the Holy Roman Church.

As the Prime Minister noted, the Pope's announcement marks a genuinely historic moment which many Australian Catholics will greet with great emotion. Many Australians saw Pope Benedict during his visit here during the church's World Youth Day in 2008. I am sure many members remember the scenes and the crowds on that visit. I was in attendance that day, and it was a great thing to see the gathering of so many people at Randwick Racecourse. I recalled the last time I was there for such an enormous gathering—I have visited a couple of the race meetings in between—was for the beatification of Mother Mary MacKillop, who, in the term of our current pope, has reached the next stage of canonisation. I know, as the Prime Minister indicated the other day, that many, many Australians took the opportunity to go to Rome and to acknowledge and celebrate on behalf of our nation the declaration of Mother Mary MacKillop as our nation's first saint.

Many people of the Catholic faith across this country will certainly miss the cardinal and hold him in fond affection. Like the member for Fowler, I want to articulate the emotion in response to this announcement from members of my own community. I acknowledge the deanery's role in our local community and our faith community, and I am sure that they were taken by surprise just as the rest of us were and will be very interested to see how things emerge over the next few weeks and who will be the new leader of our faith on Earth.

The communities of St John the Baptist at Woy Woy, Our Lady Star of the Sea at Terrigal, St Patrick's at Gosford and Our Lady of the Rosary at Wyoming will perhaps be—a lot like my own community of Holy Cross at Kincumber—a little stunned and perhaps even, for some people, in shock. Yet I guess it is the hope and the promise of a new Pope and a strong sense that God's hand is in the midst of this unexpected development that fills us as Catholics with hope for renewal at a time when—we have to be frank—the church faces very significant challenges. Change is needed, and we can only hope that this opportunity for renewal in the church that has been provided by the resignation of this Pope will bring God's will to birth here in our community.

In closing, I also contacted Bishop David Walker, who is the bishop for the Diocese of Broken Bay. I think that he articulated what I have heard the member for Fowler and the member for Riverina say here, which is that there is a degree of wisdom in coming to understand that you are enabled and able to take on a role—and I think that in accepting the role of the Pope in 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, showed that the challenge of leadership was something that he was ready for. Equally now, I think it is very enlightened of him—having been 78 when he took on that role and being at this age now—to accept that perhaps in his state of health it is time for renewal. I put Bishop Walker's comments on the record today:

I believe it is an enlightened decision. We all need to recognise when the time is right to hand over our responsibilities.

There is great service being done by many older people in our community in many, many ways, but renewal is also an enabling part of any organisation.

In closing, I would like to wish the soon to be former Pope all the best in his retirement. In this season of Lent, as we as Catholics and Christians across the world look forward to the hope of the Resurrection, I expect that the journey over the resurrection of new leadership in the church will be one that we will watch with interest. I thank the chamber for their attention.