Inter-church service in St Patrick’s Cathedral marks commencement of law year

Justice and mercy ‘two dimensions of a single reality that lead us higher’.
This year’s inter-church law service was held in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.

Posted on 3 February 2016

An inter-church service to mark the commencement of the 2016 law year was held in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta this morning.

The service is an opportunity to pray for guidance for those seeking or dispensing justice during the coming year. Participants included magistrates, judges and members of the legal fraternity, Members of Parliament and other civic leaders and dignitaries, members of the NSW Police Force, representatives and members of local Christian churches in the Parramatta region.

Rev Neil Atwood proclaims the first reading. Photos: Elizabeth McFarlane.

Rev Neil Atwood

The Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Very Rev Bob Bossini, presided at the service. The readings were proclaimed by Rev Neil Atwood, representing Rt Rev Ivan Lee, Bishop of the Western Region, Anglican Diocese of Sydney, and His Honour Justice Foster.

The Gospel was proclaimed by Rev Keith Hamilton, Senior Minister, Uniting Church in Australia, and Group CEO of Parramatta Mission. The prayer of intercession was led by Supt Dean Smith of NSW Police and Mr Chris Maley.

Other participants included Most Rev Kevin Manning, Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta, and Rev Fr Chris de Souza, Delegate of the Diocesan Administrator, Very Rev Peter Williams.

The address was given by Rev Fr Paul Roberts, Director of the Institute for Mission in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta. Fr Paul spoke of the relationship between justice and mercy as “not two contradictory realities but two dimensions of a single reality that lead us higher”.

Supt Dean Smith of NSW Police chats to Fr Paul Roberts. Photos: Elizabeth McFarlane.

Superintendent Dean Smith of NSW Police chats to Fr Paul Roberts.

He said that in encouraging a Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis stresses justice as both a necessity for civil society and as that which is rightly due to each person.

“But he also highlights, as in our religious history, that law as legalism rather than for serving and embracing a higher possibility misses the boat,” Fr Paul said.

“Francis paints a picture of religious leaders whose righteousness lacks any abandonment to the higher gift that is the source of good. Mercy on the other hand is the way of reaching out gratuitously to offer transformation.”


Fr Paul went on to say that “Pope Francis makes the big call that if God limited Himself to only justice, He would cease to be God, and would instead be like those who ask merely that the law be respected”.

“And limited only to this appeal he points out will lead to the destruction of the law, for it needs also the transformation it serves. So from a faith perspective, God doesn’t deny justice but holds it and then surpasses it with mercy and forgiveness.”

“Let’s ask blessing on the endeavors of our work; especially the various roles and works of the law that are represented here and likewise by our networks of colleagues and friends,” Fr Paul said.

“For most people exercising these roles and works there was an ideal that led them there, a hope that life would be influenced and made different, lifted and imbued with possibility. And yet the shine can quickly dull and the pressure or even the mundane can overwhelm.

“And may our service of others, in the midst of their hopes and goals, and our service of others amidst some of their more dramatic and broken experiences of life, hold and continue to reorient them.”

Members of the legal profession joined together in praying the prayer of commitment:

Into your hands, O God,

final and supreme judge of all,

we commend ourselves

at the beginning of this new year.


Let your presence be with us, to its close.

Strengthen us to remember that,

in whatsoever good we do,

we are serving you.


Give us a diligent and watchful spirit,

that we may seek in all things

to know your will,

and knowing it gladly to perform it

to the honour and glory of your name.

Through Christ our Lord.


To view Elizabeth McFarlane’s photos from the 2016 service, click here.

To view Adrian Middeldorp’s photos from the 2016 service click here.

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