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Parishioners stare down church threat -

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Parishioners stare down church threat

The World Today - Tuesday, 26 August , 2008 12:59:00

Reporter: Donna Field

ELEANOR HALL: Now to the latest on the story we brought you yesterday about the future of a
Catholic parish in Brisbane. Last night 500 parishioners turned out at St Mary's South Brisbane and
decided to stare down the Archbishop who's questioned their loyalty to Rome.

The parishioners voted to stay as part of the Catholic Church, but to do so they face some tough
decisions. As Donna Field reports.

DONNA FIELD: After sharing soup and bread on a cool Brisbane night parishioners from St Mary's
South Brisbane filed into the church, the pews were full and late comers had to sit on the floor.

They came to discuss the Church's future, after a three-page letter from Brisbane's Catholic
Archbishop John Bathersby who questioned whether St Mary's was in communion with Rome.

PARISHIONER 1: I don't think Bishop Bathersby is wrong in what he's saying I think he's just, he's
got a pretty, he's in a pretty tough situation really. And I think he can carry us forward too.

DONNA FIELD: St Mary's is no ordinary Catholic Church. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags
adorn the entry. Women have been known to preach and gay and lesbians receive blessings. The mass
is delivered with parishioners standing around the altar instead of sitting in the pews.

As one church goer put it the church has a few dilemmas but they're not insurmountable. The media
was not allowed to record the spirited and sometimes emotional debate inside the church. Outside
spokeswoman Karen Walsh said the consensus was to work to address the Archbishop's concerns.

KAREN WALSH: Clearly to work with the process that the Archbishop has given the community and there
are lots of ideas and lots more work to be done but the community really wants to reassure the
Archbishop that that's what they want to do.

DONNA FIELD: Archbishop John Bathersby hasn't given St Mary's a time frame in which to toe the
line. The Church has formed groups to address his main concerns namely the matter of the church's
faith, its interpretation of liturgy and prayer, its governance and its failure to conform with the
Roman Catholic Church's structure.

Parishioners say the issues are serious but there needs to be give and take.

PARISHONER 2: What brings us here is the sense that we are really very active, involved, deeply
thoughtful church and you don't come here because you want to hop in do your Sunday duty and pop
off.

You come here because you feel caught up in the process and we feel welcomed by this process and we
feel welcomed in a way that we don't feel welcomed in many of the mainstream Catholic Churches and
I've been a lifetime Catholic.

DONNA FIELD: Church Spokeswoman Karen Walsh says it was a wonderful meeting and she hopes the
issues can be worked out.

KAREN WALSH: Well it tells you that people are very proud of this parish and that it is a really
important part of their lives and sustains them in their faith.

ELEANOR HALL: Karen Walsh from St Mary's Church speaking to Donna Field.