"Now is the time to teach with resolution and clarity"
The following is the edited text of Archbishop Denis Hart's homily given at his reception in St Patrick's Cathedral as the eighth Archbishop of Melbourne, on 1 August 2001.
In the Gospel account (Luke 1:53), Mary prophesied that God would feed the hungry with good things. Our need for bread that will last is as great today as it has ever been.
Many commentators have observed that there is a profound hunger for the things of the spirit to fill the void left by the empty promises of materialism with its endless variety of options and subjectivism and refusal to acknowledge deep and lasting human values.
The experimental ethics of the seventies and eighties have given birth to tragic despair and profound loneliness for many people who lived on the fringe of the postmodern era of the nineties. Increasingly, secular society is impelled to move towards what Pope John Paul II calls "a culture of death" where life is being valued only as useful when it is productive.
In his letter Evangelium Vitae, which he addressed not only to the Catholic Church, but to every person of good will, John Paul spoke of the high stakes involved. He describes the dark shadows cast over today's society by threats to life. These attacks, both more serious and more numerous than in the past, entail "a war of the powerful against the weak in a conspiracy against life".
Pope John Paul II has described the beginning of the third Christian millennium as a time to "contemplate the face of Christ" (Tertio Millennio Ineunte, 15). As once the Apostles heard Christ calling them to "put out into the deep" (Tertio Millennio Ineunte, 1) so the Lord is still calling us to pioneer new ways of answering humanity's need for food that will last.
My motto, "Constant in Faith", is for me both a prayer and a pledge to serve the Church and the wider community as a teacher and defender of the constant faith of the Church. We are redeemed by Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal God and we are called to live in love and fidelity as God's people.
We, as members of the Church, are charged with a sacred responsibility to the truth, to Christ, to his body, the Church and to society.
It is truth which enlightens our intelligence and shapes our freedom (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 1). Revelation teaches us that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to us, but to God (Veritatis Splendor, 35). The Church has always taught that there is a deposit of revealed faith and that we all answer to that objective truth for our actions. Our human gifts need to be directed by our intellectual capacity to reflect and come to knowledge, which will direct our action. The ongoing project of religious education texts produced for every school in our Archdiocese will help to give succeeding generations a thorough knowledge of the faith and to be captured by its inspiration for good deeds.
We proclaim Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour and Redeemer. It is this fact which makes the difference and carries with it the challenge to respond to the Lord. As St Irenaeus put it: "Because God was beyond the reach of the human mind, incomprehensible and invisible, He has made Himself visible and knowable, so that those who see and accept Him may possess life" (Contra Haereses).
The Pallium I wear around my shoulders this evening is a sign of the integrity of the Church in Melbourne with the See of Peter. It is a symbol of my unity with the Vicar of Christ as an Archbishop of the Catholic Church. At the same time it is a sign of my oneness with the priests and people of this particular Church of Melbourne. Indeed, I firmly believe that both the mission and the way forward for our Archdiocese is to live joyfully and unashamedly in that unity.
Melbourne has been remarkably enriched by the holiness and energy of our priests and their closeness to our people. An Archbishop can only be encouraged and sustained by the indispensable leadership and service given by the ordained priests in our parishes. As teachers, ministers of Word and Sacrament, and as shepherds, they lead our people along the Lord's path of conversion.
In this task, a renewed and frequent use of individual Reconciliation remains an important challenge. I appreciate highly the quality and generosity of our seminarians who are on the journey to priesthood. I pledge myself and invite you to pray and work so that other young men may respond to Christ's call and follow them. Then those who hunger for God will be filled with good things as Jesus promised (Luke 1:53).
One of the greatest challenges facing us at present is to provide greater support for families at both parish and diocesan levels. This is essential for the future of Church and community. It is to this purpose that the tenth campus of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family has been opened in Melbourne.
I recognise the tremendous enrichment which lay people provide and I thank them for their generous service in the multi-ethnic communities of this vast Archdiocese.
However, the mission of the Church first and foremost is to help us all grow in holiness: to teach what Christ taught, to worship in the way he has given us and to gather and guide people in these complex times. In all this we must never lose sight of him, our Saviour and Redeemer. Indeed, we are called to "show the world the reason for the hope that is in us" (I Peter 3:15). Now is the time to teach with resolution and clarity, and to build up faith under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
I invite you to go forward with me in constant faith, confident hope and genuine charity, so that we might become transparent witnesses of our God, who are not afraid to face the challenges of our time.