Justice with Mercy: Legal profession to gather for annual Red Mass

By Jacob Gormley
Image: Diocese of Parramatta 2023 Red Mass

Unless you are part of Sydney’s legal profession, you may be unaware that the opening of the legal year is celebrated with an annual Red Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta, to be held this year on Monday, 5 February 2024.  

This long-standing tradition, dating back to the 13th century, marked the official term opening for most European courts and coincided with the Sacred Roman Rota, the Catholic Church’s supreme judicial body.   

The Red Mass serves as a link between the legal profession and the church, attracting senior judges, politicians, lawyers, and other legal professionals each year.  

This year, attendees will include Deputy Chief Magistrate of the Local Court Theo Tsavdaridis, judges of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney General of NSW, Dr Hugh McDermott MP, NSW Shadow Assistant Minister for Attorney General, Susan Carter, the Lord Mayor of Parramatta Pierre Esber and Stephen McAuley, Principal Solicitor of McAuley Lawyers and former president of the Parramatta & District Regional Law Society (2020-2023).   

Stephen McAuley said this is the sixth year that the Red Mass will be celebrated in the Diocese and is a significant date in the legal calendar.    

“It marks the opening of the law term and provides the legal profession with the opportunity to gather and recognise the fundamental principles of our legal system, those that have underpinned its success for centuries.”  

He said the Red Mass was important for its symbolism.  

“It emphasises the responsibility of lawmakers in exercising their power, reminding us that law is not simply an exercise of will, but of reason,” he said.  

“It emphasises the law’s duty to respect the dignity of every individual, especially the most vulnerable among us, like children, the elderly, the homeless, the sick, and the imprisoned. Ultimately, the Red Mass calls for a legal system that respects justice, human rights, the common good, and avoids legalism blind to justice, equity, and mercy.”  

The Red Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, will begin at 7pm on Monday 5 February and will be celebrated by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta.

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