25 years ago, a Polish Pope stepped off a plane and kissed the tarmac in Australia for the first time. Jesuit Father Frank Brennan remembers Pope John Paul II’s first visit Australia, and reflected on the Alice Springs portion of his trip for the Australian Jesuit blog, Eureka Street…
As the Pope completed the lengthy speech, he took a large gum branch, reached into a clay coolamon which later would be used in the Alice Springs church for baptisms, and blessed the people with water.
It was at that moment that the lightning sounded and the heavens opened. All of us in the crowd were convinced that grace and nature were one and indivisible at that moment in the red centre. The Centralian Advocate reported that ‘as an electrical storm was threatening the gathering of about 4000 people, most of the thunder was coming from the podium’.
The Pope later confided to Bishop Ted Collins, ‘I think the people prefer meeting me rather than listening to me. But I had to say it all because otherwise it could not be published.’ The mainstream media picked up the Pope’s remarks about land rights, self-determination and reconciliation.
But he put even more demanding challenges to the Australian Church when he enunciated the place of Indigenous Australians in the life of the Church, and when he outlined the relationship between Christian faith and Aboriginal culture and religious tradition.
Fr. Brennan is an adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University. To read his full reflections, please click here.