Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We write to you from the Upper Room of Pentecost – now with the doors wide open. They were closed by the fear of those who had seen the Lord die but had not seen him risen from the dead. Now – as for the apostles, so for us – Jesus stands in our midst, breaking through all closed doors. He comes as the first-born from the dead, and he breathes into us the Holy Spirit and he speaks: “Peace be with you”, he says. And because his breath is within us we can echo those Easter words and say to you as we formally launch the journey of the Plenary Council, “Peace be with you”.
These are the words of Jesus who on Calvary has gone to the very heart of darkness. On the Cross, Jesus went to the bedrock of our destitution which is the work of sin. He has seen the worst; he has descended into hell. But he rises from there and speaks Easter words for ever: “Peace be with you”. He means, “I have entered the depths; I have seen the worst, and you have nothing to fear. Your fears which seem so powerful are no more than a bluff”.
Hearing his words, we can name our fears and call their bluff. We can name the fears we have about ourselves, our family and friends, the Church, the nation, the world. Then we can look to Jesus who leads us beyond them to the peace which the world cannot give. That’s when the doors of the Upper Room are flung open and the mission which had seemed beyond us can begin.
When all seems lost, the apostles find fresh energy and new life. They grow young again as they find unimagined hope in meeting the Risen Lord. Calvary had made them old; hope had died, leaving them in the shadow of death. But once the light of the Risen Christ enters their world they enter the eternal freshness of God, the unfailing newness of Easter. Winter turns to Spring.
When he announced the Second Vatican Council, Pope St John XXIII spoke of his hope for “a new Pentecost”. We make his hope his own all these years later as we formally launch the journey of the Plenary Council. We believe that our long-pondered decision to move to a Plenary Council was inspired by the Holy Spirit; and we believe that all three phases of our journey – preparation, celebration and implementation – will be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. In giving his consent to the Plenary Council, Pope Francis as Successor of Peter put his apostolic seal on our belief that the Holy Spirit had led us to this decision and would inspire us all on the journey into the future. We invite you to join us in that belief, since if the Holy Spirit does not guide and empower us we would be left with a Plenary Council which is no more than administrative and political. The Church would be left a corpse, not the Body of Christ.
The Church in this country is young in terms of years. We’ve been here not much more than two hundred years. But the Church was transplanted from other places where the faith had long been; in that sense we were cloned. So we’ve grown old quickly. The Church here can seem at times like Sarah or Hannah or Elizabeth – too old or too barren to give birth. Yet like these stars of the Scripture we too are called to give birth against all the odds – but only by the power of the Holy Spirit of God who in the Bible specialises in doing what seems impossible.
In that hope we now set our course for the celebration of the Plenary Council and the future that God is preparing. Everyone has a place on the journey; every voice has a word to speak as we move on. Open your hearts then to the power of the Holy Spirit, whoever you are; open your ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us in Australia; open your lips to speak boldly of what you have heard. Let the Risen Christ open every closed door. Let him open even the tombs, so that the Good News of Easter may go out to every corner of this land and throughout the whole earth from a Church renewed and empowered by the Lord who breathes upon us and says to the world through us, “Peace be with you”.
As always in the Lord,
Archbishop of Brisbane
Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council
Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council
Archbishop Mark Coleridge (Chairman)
Archbishop Philip Wilson
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv
Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay OLM
Bishop Michael Kennedy
With thanks to the ACBC.