The Annual Celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation

The Interfaith Council for the Annunciation along with Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Maronite Bishop of Australia, hosted The Annual Celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation on 24th March 2019 at ACU Strathfield.

Since 2014, it has become an annual tradition to hold an interfaith gathering of Christians and Muslims for the Feast of the Annunciation. The event brings together spiritual leaders and community members, in one spirit, honouring Our Lady and praying together for love and peace.

The year, the celebration will include a seminar on the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together co-signed by His Holiness, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, SheikhAhmed al-Tayeb in 2019.

Bishop Michael McKenna, Chair of Bishops Commission for Christian Unity and Inter-religious Dialogue, participated as a member of the panel presenting the seminar.

The following is a summary of Bishop Michael's remarks from the seminar:

I am grateful for the invitation to be here this evening at this important annual event. As we acknowledged in our time of silent prayer at the beginning, we gather in the shadow of the horrific attacks on worshippers in two Christchurch mosques. Many Catholic bishops have already expressed, and I reaffirm tonight, our solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in this dreadful moment.

May I begin these remarks on the document of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar by referring to something else we did at the start: the acknowledgement of country. This practice has become routine when we assemble on public occasions in Australia. Some have suggested that this routine makes our acknowledgement less effective, but I disagree. We do not need dramatic impact, but a gentle, insistent repetition that keeps returning us to the perspective of who we are as contemporary Australians, and where we have come from.

We have come from all the lands on earth and seek to live in harmony, mutually enriched by the diverse memories and cultures of our ancestors. We rightly celebrate our successes in this enterprise. However, we must also be realistic about our history, from the dispossession of the first Australians, through the occasions of distrust and mistreatment of one another on ethnic or religious grounds since then. This history teaches us that a tolerant, compassionate and peaceful culture only happens when we intend it and work for it.

People of faith can be either the best or the worst at this task of living our common humanity. Ignorance of the other; and the fear, disrespect and even contempt that comes from that ignorance is possible even in people of faith. And it is at its worst then. But faith also teaches us to believe, with other people of faith, in a transcendent reality, in a universe created by God, in a vision that can distinguish what is important from what is passing.

The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together lists many horrors and dangers that are real in our world today. It issues challenges for action on many fronts. But it also expresses “profound hope in a bright future for all human beings”. This hope can only come from and be sustained by our faith in God. Humankind, capable of so much evil and destructiveness, is also capable of the most wonderful aspirations and deeds, because we carry within a spark of our Divine Creator.

+Michael McKenna
Bishop of Bathurst

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