Address to the staff of the ACBC General Secretariat – Part 2: Pope Francis and the Wake Up Moment

3 September 2019
Bishop Vincent Long meets with Pope Francis during the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Ad Limina meeting in Rome. Image: Vatican Media.


Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta

Address to the staff of the ACBC General Secretariat, Canberra

“Working for the Church in the Time of Perceived Irrelavancy”

Canberra, 22 July 2019





The arrival of Pope Francis is a game changer. The image of the newly-elected Pope bowing in silence before the euphoric, then hushed, crowd at St Peter’s Square was truly the prophetic sign of the century!

With that humble gesture, the Pope exemplified a model of ministry which would correspond with the signs of the times, the needs of the people and the creative power of the Spirit. It signalled that the time had come to set aside old wineskins and reach for new.

He is a leader who has unambiguously embraced the call to lead us beyond the safety of the status quo into the challenge of responding to the dislocation and marginalisation of the Church.

He has launched the Barque of Peter away from the shallow harbour of Christendom and into the tumultuous waters of the post-Christian society.

He is like the pioneer who left the billabong in search of the life-giving river. He constantly urges the whole Church to go beyond itself: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

This “being out on the streets” is not about fighting for its former status and privilege or parading its force. Rather, it is about service and mission to the most vulnerable even at the risk of its own security.

Pope Francis has challenged the whole Church to wake up to the new reality with a new attitude.

He said that we are not living in an era of change but change of era. It cannot be status quo at any cost, because the ground under our feet has shifted. There needs to be an attitudinal change at every level, a conversion of mind and heart that conforms us to the spirit of the Gospel, a new wine into new wineskins, not a merely cosmetic change or worse a retreat into restorationism.

The Catholic Church has had its Damascus moment in the sexual abuse crisis.

It has fallen from the privileged position in society and the power and influence that came with that status. Now, like Paul, who was led into a place of vulnerability, we are undergoing a time of uncertainty and darkness until we can learn to see, act and relate in the way of Christ the Humble Servant.

We should not fear this time, which is a kind of a Holy Saturday experience. It is a time of ambiguity, of mourning and yet hoping for Good News; it is a liminal interval, a time in which one stands between the old and the new.

Part 3 will be published tomorrow.

To read Part 1 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.

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