Equipping Christian leaders for the challenges of secularism

Equipping Christian leaders for the challenges of secularism

Philippa Le Feuvre

Cardinal George Pell has described the upcoming inaugural John Paul II Australian Leaders Forum as "an important milestone for the Catholic Church in Australia."

Renowned academics, lawyers, journalists and politicians will be gathering together in Sydney to attend the inaugural John Paul II Australian Leaders Forum from 10-12 August 2012. A first of its kind in Australia, the Forum will equip Christian leaders throughout Australia with the knowledge to face the growing secularisation of our culture.

The Forum began as an initiative of a small group of orthodox Catholic lay people who recognised the need to bring together the many Catholic leaders around Australia on an annual basis. Apart from the Church as an institution, there are numerous lay organisations forming independently of one another.


The Forum seeks to break the obstacles of preoccupation and distance by bringing these groups and their leaders together in order to facilitate greater collaboration and more effective networking. This will permit a heightened awareness of what is already being successfully achieved in the name of evangelising Australian culture.

Invoking the name of Pope John Paul II in recognition of his outstanding leadership as Supreme Pastor of the Catholic Church, the Forum aims to give leaders in various walks of life a regular opportunity to meet for the following purposes:

• Evangelising the culture: To learn about the latest initiatives from Australia and elsewhere for the evangelisation of culture.

• Building leadership: To help build an intellectual framework and a defining rhetoric to assist Catholic and other Christian leaders to articulate their beliefs and values and to shape the debate in Australia today, especially about issues impinging on Christian life and religious freedom.

• Fostering fellowship and co-operation: To provide a setting for strengthening Christian camaraderie and deepening individual spiritual life, as part of supporting common leadership efforts in evangelisation.

• Extending networks: To reach out to other Christian leaders who share a vision of collaborative effort for the spiritual and moral revitalisation of Australian culture.

Cardinal George Pell is the Principal Patron of the Forum and is also the guest speaker at the Opening Dinner on Friday night. He highlighted the necessity of the Forum as follows: "Catholic leaders continue to make significant contributions to our community, building up what Blessed John Paul II called 'the civilisation of love', but often do so working away quietly in their own areas of expertise. The John Paul II Australian Leaders Forum provides a great opportunity for leaders to come together and to learn from each other. I hope it will also strengthen the energy and commitment which sustains leaders in bearing witness to faith, in serving their communities, and in renewing the culture. It is imperative in these modern times that leaders in their field take the opportunity to learn from one another and follow up Pope John Paul II's mission 'proclaim Christ to all peoples'."

Each delegate will be exposed to highly credentialed speakers who are well equipped to engage on public issues facing Australia today. This will provide attendees with social support and an intellectual framework for their Christian beliefs that can be applied in their professional lives.

The weekend will showcase an excellent lineup of speakers including the Hon. John Anderson, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Jim Wallace, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Wayne Bennett, coach of the Newcastle Knights, and Joe de Bruyn, National Secretary of the SDA .

The Keynote speaker, who will be addressing the delegates at the Gala Dinner on Saturday evening, is Prof. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Founder and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is also a Professor of Politics and an associated faculty member of the Department of Philosophy at Princeton. Professor George, in his Keynote address, will be discussing the "Five Pillars of Decent and Dynamic Societies". His speech will identify and explore the economic and moral principles on which decent and dynamic societies are built.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event, Mrs Kristan Dooley, is Managing Director of Women's Forum Australia, a women's research and education organisation which promotes life-affirming cultural change for women.

Judeo-Christian heritage

The organisers of the Forum contend that Australian Catholics must join together in an effort to be heard and reassert Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage. The John Paul II Australian Leaders Forum will give Catholic leaders within Australia the material to face these challenges and bring what Blessed Pope John Paul II described as "evangelisation and mission to the nations." In bringing delegates to a further appreciation of their faith the John Paul II Australian Leaders Forum will help to promote "all things in Christ".

The Forum is being held at a central location in the Sydney CBD, the Sheraton on the Park Hotel. All dinners, lunches, morning and afternoon teas are included in the registration fee. For more information concerning speakers, the Forum agenda and how to register visit the website at www.jp2alf.org.au

Philippa Le Feuvre is the event co-ordinator and a Campion College Australia graduate.

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