Greetings from Rome,
As the current Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, I write to say thanks to the thousands of good natured Australians who visited Rome for the Canonisation of Mary MacKillop, also my thanks for the liaison and specific support of many, including from all of the large media contingent present. I salute the fact there were no arrests and only twelve passports stolen from the thousands of Australian visitors. The extra Consular support and the mobile Consular van “Kanga Two” worked a treat and was appreciated by many visiting Australians as they passed by en route to and from St. Peter’s Square.
I should add a special salutation to Penola and the nearby Coonawarra, where St Mary MacKillop opened her first school back in 1866. The Coonawarra Vignerons Association generously responded to the suggestion that a Coonawarra Wine shipment be sent to Rome to mark the occasion. One fortnight on from the canonisation and the many events where the wines of excellence were served, there are still people talking about Penola and the Coonawarra here in Rome.
The key Embassy function was a four phase event called “Una Notte Australiana” in the Vatican Museum itself. This started with a conference relating to Australian Indigenous and “The Rituals of Life”, the inauguration by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, MP and Julie Bishop MP, of an exhibition of high value artefacts material sent to Rome by invitation back in 1925, from the Tiwi and also Torres Strait Islands, Kalumbaru and New Norcia WA and a huge canonisation reception at which the Coonawarra wines were served. After this there was a public courtyard performance by an indigenous dance group from the Australian Catholic University and William Barton on the didgeridoo, with the dome of St. Peter’s as a backdrop. The key support of Qantas, National Museum of Australia and Tourism Australia is gratefully acknowleged.
Signage saying “There is nothing like Australia” plus a Tourism logo are now on semi permanent display in a key entry point to the Ethnological section of the Vatican museum and passed by 20,000 visitors daily, with four large photos of Australia to the fore, all helpful to putting Australia on the map in this competitive hub of Rome. I want to express my thanks to the Coonawarra Vignerons Association, especially for quickly picking up on the win/win concept and to many others who helped in many ways, along the way.
I praise the Sisters of Saint Joseph for their work throughout, along with Harvest Travel who allowed DFAT warnings about “Smart Gangs” that steal passports to be widely issued. As mentioned, the result was just twelve passports had to be replaced during the canonisation week. Finally I thank the so called (fondly) “Gang of Four”; namely Cardinal Pell, Archbishop Wilson, Sister Ann Derwin and Sister Maria Casey who were the key canonisation committee for all their liaison. Hopefully they might have one of their final meetings at Penola, if logistics allow, I can think of an old school house as a venue and this 1866 connection appeared on cards across the functions in Rome, along with all the Coonawarra Vignerons logos.
Now it is a case of pushing on in relation to the issues I have been publicly instructed to pursue, including Food Security, Interfaith Dialogue and Religious Freedom to name some.
Saluti Tim Fischer
Tim Fischer, AC
Australian Embassy to the Holy See
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 349
00186 Rome Italy
Tel: +39 06 686 261
Fax: +39 06 6862 6111