Cardinal Francis Arinze's reflection (page 20) is a reminder of the Church's impressive launch following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. From the beginning Christianity's universality was underlined as the Apostles' message of salvation through Jesus Christ overcame the language barrier.
"Remarkable things began to happen", says Cardinal Arinze. "Filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak foreign languages. They proclaimed the Lord Jesus as the one and only Saviour. They were no longer afraid. They gave bold witness to Jesus. Three thousand people were converted on that one day (cf. Acts 2: 41). In short, the infant Church was launched. It was manifested to the world".
Over the centuries, the Christian message has spread to all corners of the world, including Australia. In this country, its growth was remarkable, despite the often harsh environment and climate.
However, over the past 30 years, the Christian churches, including Catholicism, have felt the impact of secularism, and many of their members have succumbed to moral relativism, materialism and indifferentism. As the secularist elites in government, academia, the media and the arts continue to marginalise or trivialise Christianity, Christians must stand up.
While the Catholic Church remains the single largest and most cohesive Christian denomination in Australia, it urgently needs a spiritual kick-start along the lines of the first Pentecost.
With another Mass count underway to coincide with the five-yearly national Census, it will be of significance whether the level of practice has continued its downward path since the late 1960s, or whether there has been any levelling out or upturn. The last available figure, for 2001, showed that about 13 per cent of Catholics fulfilled their weekly Mass attendance obligation.
This was symptomatic of a wider fallaway in belief and practice among Catholics that can be traced, in part at least, to deficiencies in the Catholic schools' teaching of the faith.
This situation cries out for strong, courageous Church leadership.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (email - email@example.com)