“Fire is important to Aboriginal people and is the heart of Indigenous culture. It is the sign of the Holy Spirit that gives warmth, purifies, and brings many gifts”
– Penitential Rite from NATSICC’s 2011 liturgical guide
This Sunday July 3 is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday when Australia’s Catholics join in prayerful solidarity with Australia’s First People.
On this occasion dioceses and parishes will be able to draw from the liturgical materials prepared by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC). NATSICC is the national body dealing exclusively with Indigenous issues within the Catholic Church.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday this year falls a few months before the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s address to Aboriginal people at Alice Springs, said Mr Martin Teulan, Catholic Mission’s National Director.
‘The opportunity is to reflect on the journey so far,” said Mr Teulan “The Pope’s theme was reconciliation.
“He clearly saw the Catholic Church as a vehicle for social and spiritual infusion when he told the First People ‘You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others’.”
Since that time the Church had undergone a cultural transformation said Mr Teulan. “Today we acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. Elders welcome our guests into their country. In dioceses Aboriginal Catholic ministries and councils are significant forces for dialogue across the cultures,” he said.
“What remains to be achieved however is more of the giving and receiving we call friendship. Yes, true friendships will span any cultural bridge gap, no matter how wide.” Mr Teulan said.
“Eighty per cent of Aborigines live in capital cities, not in remote areas. What efforts have we made to become friends? It is in the act of friendship that white Australians can become aware first-hand of the issues that concern Australia’s First Peoples.”