Australia and the Holy See celebrate a milestone

By Christina Gretton, 27 September 2023
Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann (right) and Ambassador Chiara Porro met with Pope Francis during Reconciliation Week. Image: Australian Embassy to the Holy See/Supplied


Australia’s relationship with the Holy See has gone from strength to strength, with 2023 marking a milestone we can all celebrate.

It has been 50 years since Australia established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in Rome. Over that time, the bilateral relationship has grown, says Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro. Following World Youth Day 2008, the first resident ambassador, the late Hon Tim Fischer was appointed in 2009. Now the embassy works closely with the Holy See on a range of objectives such as peacebuilding, protection and promotion of human rights and tackling the climate crisis.

Ambassador Porro points out how the embassy works to project a “vibrant, diverse and modern Australian identity that is proud of its First Nations’ heritage.”

“Our collaboration with the Holy See also extends to sport, as an expression of Australian values of friendship and equality.”

Themes of the celebration

“Our anniversary activities this year are focused on four key themes,” says Ambassador Porro.

“They include ending exclusion, injustice and harm; protecting our common home; identifying new pathways for change through education and sport; and amplifying First Nations voices.”

She invited prominent Aboriginal leader, educator and artist Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann to Rome for a series of events during Australia’s Reconciliation Week in June this year. The reaction from the Vatican community, says Ambassador Porro was “extraordinarily positive” with Vatican leaders commenting on how much they learned about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, including how they experience their Catholic faith.

Pope Francis meets Dr Miriam Rose

During Reconciliation Week, Pope Francis met with Dr Miriam Rose. “It was a very warm, memorable encounter,” says the Ambassador. “He heard about her philosophy of ‘dadirri’ or ‘deep thinking’. Giving him a picture of a tree in the shape of a crucifix, Dr Miriam Rose explained to the Pope how people in her community ‘see God in nature’.”

Dr Miriam Rose made a presentation of an artwork We Found God in Nature to the Vatican Museum, spoke at a range of events and took part in a Mass at Domus Australia to celebrate 50 years since the first Aboriginal liturgy was held in Australia.

Pope Francis’ commitment to First Nations People

Ambassador Porro points out Pope Francis’ commitment to journeying with First Nations communities towards reconciliation. “Pope Francis has said that he wants to be the ‘spokesman for the most profound plea of Indigenous Peoples’,” she says. “I believe this phrase crystallises the Pope’s commitment to journeying together with First Nations communities towards reconciliation.

“The Pope also acknowledges the wealth of traditional cultures and wisdom, and he has worked to strengthen the Church’s proximity to Indigenous communities around the world. That proximity is reflected in Miriam Rose’s own story.

“This year is an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of our ties with the Holy See, but it is also a chance to consider how we can strengthen and renew our commitments towards shared goals into the future,” she says.

The Australian Embassy to the Holy See has made recordings of the Reconciliation Week events available on its website. See them, and other coming events for the 50th Anniversary on its events page at

This article was originally published in the 2023 Season of Creation | Spring edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.


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