In their first private one-on-one conversation, the president of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, S.D.B., told Pope Francis, “The church in Australia is alive!”
The archbishop revealed this in an exclusive interview with America, which was conducted over Zoom from his residence in Perth, Western Australia, and will be published in two parts. In Part I, the archbishop talks about his audience with the pope and also his takeaways from Australia’s Plenary Council, over which he presided, and that many now view as a trial run for the global Synod on Synodality. He also shares his reflections on the Frascati meeting, in which he participated, which recently released its report in preparation for the continental assemblies of the second phase of the Synod on Synodality.
When I asked if Francis was concerned about the situation of the church in Australia given all that’s happened there in recent years, including some 60 members of the Plenary Council staging a protest during its proceedings, he responded:
“I wouldn’t say he was concerned about the church in Australia, but he was interested to know. I talked about the reality that we had struck some difficult moments but that—and I believe this very strongly—the prayerful atmosphere we created, an atmosphere which generated a real sense of respect for each other, enabled us to navigate all of those difficulties…. I said that at the end of the council assembly there was a real sense of energy and enthusiasm, and I finished up by saying in Italian, “La Chiesa in Australia é viva!” It’s alive. And he said, “I am so pleased to hear you say that, I like that word ‘viva.’”
The archbishop continued:
“I meant it. I don’t for a minute pretend that we don’t have issues and challenges, but the church is alive in Australia. And I was struck by his enthusiasm, his sense of satisfaction in hearing, at least my assessment, that despite the challenges we face, we are a living and vibrant church. He was, I think, clearly pleased that the Plenary Council had gone well.”
To continue reading this interview with Archbishop Costelloe, click here.
Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent and author of The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Story of the Conclave That Changed History. He has been covering the Vatican since 1985.
With thanks to America and Gerard O’Connell, where this article originally appeared.