Mr BOB CARR (Maroubra—Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Citizenship) [8.41 p.m.]: I move:
(1) members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in Parliament assembled express their profound sorrow at the recent death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II; and
(2) as a mark of respect this House do now adjourn.
In 1978, after three days of fruitless balloting, the conclave of cardinals toyed with the options and took a great gamble, settling on a young Polish Cardinal whom few people in the West had heard of. It was interesting that the Kremlin knew who he was. KGB boss Yuri Andropov, hearing the result, remarked, "There could be trouble ahead." In the late 1970s he was quite perceptive to feel the first tremor of the downfall of those Marxist dictatorships, but that is what one pays a KGB boss to do—to be perceptive. Few popes came to the great task better prepared. For John Paul II, as with Churchill, all his past life "had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial." This was the man who, as a child, had tasted the first freedom Poland enjoyed in centuries. He was 19 when the Wehrmacht tanks rolled across Poland and snuffed out that freedom. He laboured in a quarry and a chemical plant as a slave of the Nazi invaders. He was 25 when the first horrors of Auschwitz were revealed. He saw it all. He was there, seeing the great forces of the century.
The outlines of his pontificate are already legend: the first theatrical appearance on St Peter's balcony which won over the cynical Romans; the sermons, writings and travels he mobilised to expose and defeat the Marxist lies; facing down Marcos and Duvalier; terminating the misguided experiment of liberation theology. His was a papacy of firsts: the first Slavic pope; the first non-Italian pope in 450 years; the first pope since the days of the early church to have been a manual worker; the first pope since the Roman Empire to have lived under persecution. He was the most travelled vicar of Christ in history—a workaholic with 109 major theological documents; five books, including the first commercial imprints ever by a pope; 104 tours outside of Italy. He was the first pope to grasp the power of the media; in legend and in truth a frustrated actor. His resonant voice and easy charisma were tailor-made for television, the medium that made him perhaps the most recognised and celebrated human being in history.
Pope John Paul II instinctively understood that faith is global. He sought out, visited and kissed the soil in every nook and corner of his worldwide responsibility, but, like Chopin, he always carried a small handful of Polish soil wherever he went. His second papal visit abroad was back to Poland, where his forceful defence of human dignity and freedom subverted an entire political order and within a decade brought it, amazingly swiftly, down in ruins. That was his finest hour. His other messages were a little more mixed and open to argument. To most Catholics he was, like the title of the book that impelled him to public attention, a "sign of contradiction". He was a confident assertion of changeless truth in a world increasingly averse to absolutes. But to others his inflexibility on matters of personal morality showed a man out of touch with the modern world. One thing is certain: John Paul II had a ferocious, unflinching integrity.
His views were unwavering, undisguised and unmistakable. Nobody faced with the slow crumbling of the 1960s and 1970s could have stood so steadfastly against the fashionable arguments of his many antagonists. He did. His message was too complex and layered to be reduced to a single slogan. He opposed rampant free-market economics and capital punishment. He could not be dismissed as a mere conservative. No-one of his intricate grandeur could be so easily summarised. He has drawn praise from people of other faiths. Tributes this week from local community leaders attest to that. The Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, said:
He was a man of great courage, indeed one of the great leaders of this and the last century.
Lebanese Muslim Association president Keysar Trad said the Pope "steered Catholicism into a friendly and respectful dialogue with people of other faiths." George Newhouse, from the Jewish Labor Forum, said the Pope would be remembered for his ground-breaking efforts towards Catholic-Jewish reconciliation. Another commentator, quoted in this week's Bulletin said that, following the work of this Pope, "Anti-Semitism and Catholicism will never again be able to co-exist." Indeed, John Paul II was the first pope since Apostolic times to visit a synagogue and the first ever to visit a mosque. He apologised for evils done in the name of the church and begged forgiveness for Catholic anti-Semitism down the ages. He established diplomatic relations with Israel while remaining a true friend of the Palestinian people and their aspiration to statehood.
The dimensions of his opalescent character are hard to grasp all at once—his brains and shrewd practical wisdom, his sly charm and persuasiveness, and his physical strength that slowly yielded to suffering so patiently borne. No simple story can contain all the stories that were him. The tributes to him—and again I refer to this week's Bulletin—are remarkable. It seems that the Protestant Reformation never occurred, if one looks at what Billy Graham, the great evangelist, said. It was a feeling I had last night in the cathedral. Billy Graham said:
He was an inspiration to millions—including me. He was unquestionably the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years. His extraordinary gifts, his strong Catholic faith and his experience of human tyranny and suffering in his native Poland all shaped him, and yet he was respected by men and women from every conceivable background across the world.
I will share two other quotes with the House. One is from Maciej Zieba, the head of the Dominican Order in Poland, who describes the Pope as a mystic. He said, "When he prayed, it was physical." Senator Edward Kennedy said:
I first met him when he came to Boston, in 1979. He came off the plane in his customary way and dramatically bowed and kissed the ground. More than 100,000 people came to the Boston Common and attended the mass in the pouring rain, and when he turned around and said before his homily, "I greet you, America the beautiful"—that line touched everyone in Boston and made him a beloved figure in our part of the country. The symbolic significance for all of us in Boston and Massachusetts was how far Roman Catholics had come from being the victims of prejudice and discrimination.
To some extent Pope John Paul II is the twenty-century writ large in his experience of Nazism and communism, the excesses, in his view, of capitalism and the triumph of democratic systems across Europe. He is the Catholic story in one man, whose Golgotha has now been passed and his peace has come but whose place in history is certain now that he belongs to the ages.
Mr JOHN BROGDEN (Pittwater—Leader of the Opposition) [8.50 p.m.]: This Chamber today speaks on behalf of all citizens of New South Wales in honouring the life of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II. Catholics and non-Catholics, Christians and non-Christians, and non-believers around the State of New South Wales, and indeed around the world, have recognised the significant role played by Pope John Paul II in his period as Pope. It could be said of John Paul II that without doubt he is one of the giants of the twentieth century, for his combination of faith and freedom ended a bloody war-torn century with some hope for the following century.
In recent years, months and days most citizens of this State, and in particular most Catholics, watched the Pope struggle through his illness. Most of us would like to remember him as the young 58-year-old elected to the papacy in extraordinary circumstances, the first non-Italian Pope for more than four centuries, the man who gave Poland a special place in the world, which Poles to this day, in Poland and around the world but particularly here in Australia, are very proud of. He demonstrated— through his incredible tenacity, his faith, his morality, his willingness to spread the message, and his initiative to travel the world—that he was one of the giants of the twentieth century.
Of course, he was not the first, but the second, Pope to visit Australia. However, he visited our soil on two separate occasions—in 1986 and in 1995. In 1986 he attended one of the largest ever public gatherings in the history of our nation when 250,000 Catholics and others gathered at Randwick racecourse to celebrate. As a Catholic I always thought it was appropriate that we had a religious gathering at a racecourse, but that is for another day. I had just left school and, with many young friends, proudly attended Randwick racecourse. The 250,000 citizens who gathered were held in the Holy Father's palm as he said to the crowd in that wonderful voice, "To all those who have wandered from their spiritual home I wish to say: Come back! Do not be afraid! Come home!"
He made a very important plea to Australian Catholics, who have a combination of the Irish Catholic mould and later the Italian Catholic mould, now heavily influenced by other communities—in particular, the Filipino community and their great devotion to Catholicism and this Pope. That message to Catholics to come home was very powerful to Australians. In 1995 he came to Australia with one particular purpose and that was to beatify Mother Mary MacKillop, the first of two critical steps to sainthood. The beatification of Mother Mary MacKillop, or, as the Holy Father said, Mary of the Cross MacKillop, was particularly important to Australians.
That controversial character in the history of Australia and Australian Catholicism had not only come home to the church but the significance of the decision of the Pope to come to Australia to beatify her and announce the beatification cannot be measured. To have our first Australian saint—we hope some 10 years later that she continues on the second stage to sainthood—was an incredibly special feeling for all Australians. As an old boy of the Christian Brothers it was also significant to me that the Holy Father beatified Blessed Edmund Rice in recent years. But on those two occasions—the first more so than the second—Pope John Paul II linked all Australians, in particular Australian Catholics, with world Catholicism in a very special way.
His personal record of achievement has been remarkable: the number of statements he has made, the incredible intellectual discussion that he has spurred within the church, the 14 encyclicals, the 15 apostolic exhortations, the 11 apostolic constitutions, the 45 apostolic letters. He published five books and was prolific in the creation of saints in the church. He presided over 147 beatification ceremonies, including 1,338 blessed proclamations, 51 canonisation ceremonies and 482 sainthood ceremonies during his pontificate. As I said earlier, he also travelled widely, completing 104 pastoral visits outside Italy and 146 within Italy. Interestingly, as the Bishop of Rome he visited 317 of 333 parishes.
Last night there was a large gathering of civic leaders, Catholics and people of all religions to pray for the Holy Father in St Mary's Cathedral, a mass presided over by the papal nuncio, by His Eminence Cardinal Cassidy and His Eminence Cardinal Clancy. The mass was delivered by the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Bishop Porteous. He acted in place of Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, who cut short his pilgrimage to the Middle East a few days ago to travel directly to Rome to take part in the prayers for the Pope, the funeral of the Holy Father and the conclave. Although Australia has three cardinals, only one is under the age of 80 and eligible to vote, that being Cardinal Pell. I am sure all Australian Catholics pray that Cardinal Pell is given the wisdom he needs to make the decision that will give the Catholic Church its next Pope.
Although his world achievements, his influence on world events and his leadership of the Catholic Church are now a matter of history, the way in which he touched the lives of so many Australians—both here in Australia and those who made pilgrimages particularly to Rome—will always be remembered. In 1992 as part of my honeymoon my wife and I were able to attend a public audience with the Holy Father on a Wednesday in Rome, with 4,000 of his closest friends. I was able to get a place at a barricade, expecting to be absolutely nowhere near where the Pope would pass by. Unexpectedly he passed by the area where I was standing. He was surrounded by bishops, priests and, of course, security guards and photographers. On my side of the barricade I was surrounded by a number of women from Mexico who were almost hysterical with excitement at being able to meet the Pope. As he came close they yelled out, "Mexico, Mexico, Holy Father."
They brought their children forward for the Pope's blessing. Even in 1992 he appeared a lot older in real life than he did on television, and much more frail than he had been in years gone by. Those women wanted to give their children to the Pope not simply to receive his blessing but because when he was first elected Pope he had a ritual—particularly before his attempted assassination and the deterioration of his health—when attending those public events on Wednesdays of taking children and tossing them into the air, much to the delight of the crowd. But as an older man who was sick he was unable to do that. As he came to me I leant over and kissed his ring and stood up and said, "Australia". He touched my cheek and said, "Australie."
I cried like a child, as one might imagine, and went back to my wife, who—being a Protestant and a cynic—did not think I would get anywhere near the Holy Father and had spent the last half hour writing postcards. I told her I had met the Pope, but she did not believe it. Of course, the next day we returned to the Vatican to buy copies of the photographs. It remains one of the most wonderful events of my life to have been touched by the Holy Father in that way, to share what was an incredible gentleness and spirituality, and to see him amongst his people displaying such natural charisma.
If there is one thing that demonstrates the real man, I believe it to be an event that followed an assassination attempt. On 13 May 1981 in St Peter's Square the Pope was shot by a Turk, Mehmet Ali Agca. In 1983, in a remarkable demonstration of compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation, the Holy Father had a private meeting with the man who had attempted to assassinate him. Of all the footage of the Holy Father travelling to the four corners of the world, visions of him with sick people and with children, amongst his followers and meeting world leaders, the image that made the greatest impression on me was that of Pope John Paul II forgiving Mehmet Ali Agca for the attempt on his life. That one small action demonstrated the depth of the man.
The gathering in St Mary's Cathedral last night included civic leaders, the Prime Minister and Mrs Howard, the Premier and Mrs Carr, the Leader of the Federal Opposition, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, the Commissioner of Police, and many members of this Chamber and of the Legislative Council, led by the Governor of New South Wales, her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir and Sir Nicholas Shehadie. Of significance also were the interfaith leaders, representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities, the Eastern and Christian churches and what appeared to be thousands upon thousands of ordinary Australians who were there in a public expression of respect and love for Pope John Paul II, and an understanding of the significance of the role that he played.
People throughout the world, Catholics in particular, look to the election of a new Pope. Just as every past Pope has filled the shoes of the fisherman, the newly elected Pope will have an enormous challenge to move the Catholic Church forward on many critical issues. He will be able to do that, based on a rock; on an incredible record of service and strength shown by the Holy Father during the past almost 30 years. His visits to Australia, as I said earlier, will be remembered by all Catholics—indeed, by all Australians—as significant and important. His Holiness Pope John Paul II played a very important role in bringing Australian Catholics closer to the Holy See. The Liberal-Nationals Coalition strongly supports this motion in recognition of one of the great men of the twentieth century.
Mr KEVIN GREENE (Georges River) [9.03 p.m.]: In supporting this motion I join with previous speakers, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, many other members of this House, and the people of New South Wales and Australia in paying tribute to His Holiness Pope John Paul II. In so doing I acknowledge that tonight I represent the people of the electorate of Georges River, particularly those in the Catholic communities of the Georges River electorate—the parishes of Our Lady of Fatima, Kingsgrove; Regina Coeli, Beverly Hills; St Michael's, Hurstville; St Joseph's, Riverwood; St Raphael's, South Hurstville; St Joseph's, Oatley; St Declan's, Penshurst; and my own parish, Our Lady of Fatima at Peakhurst. I also acknowledge the parish priests in those parishes, in order: Father Remy Lam Son Bui, Father Paul Hilder, Bishop David Cremin, Father John Walter, Father Phil Linder, Father John Doherty and Father John Crothers.
As has been mentioned, and as will undoubtedly be mentioned by many others who speak to this motion, the life of Karol Wojtyla was of significance to the history of the twentieth century. Born in Wadowice in 1920, he was the second of two sons. In 1942, during the Second World War, he commenced his training in a seminary just outside Cracow and was finally ordained in 1946. After two years of further study in Rome he commenced parish work in the Archdiocese of Cracow. He also worked as a university chaplain while maintaining his pastoral work. In 1958 he was appointed Auxiliary Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Pius XII. He became an Archbishop 1964 and in 1967 was made Cardinal by Pope Paul VI. On 16 October 1978 he was elected Pope.
In going through that history I could not help but recall that in my lifetime I have known four popes—Pope John XXIII, when I was extremely young and did not realise who or what the pope was; Pope Paul VI; Pope John Paul I, for a brief period of three weeks; and Pope John Paul II. My six children, including my daughter aged 25½, have known only one pope and he has had such an influence on an entire generation of Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the world. In detailing the Pope's history I note, as was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, that the Pope has been a prolific author, a significant contributor to the Catholic faith in both written and spoken form.
His 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 45 apostolic letters and five books—the most recent of which was published this year—give some idea of the enormous workload undertaken by this great man in his almost 27 years as Catholic Pope. In that time, also, he created close to 500 saints. As the Leader of the Opposition was speaking about the beatification of Blessed Mary MacKillop, I was reflecting on the fact that throughout my education with the Marist Brothers we always referred to the founder of the Marist Brothers as Blessed Marcellin Champagnat. It was during the time of Pope John Paul II that Blessed Marcellin Champagnat became St Marcellin Champagnat. I might add I still have to think before using that title because I was brought up learning about Blessed Marcellin Champagnat.
That is just a personal reflection on one of the changes that has impacted on my life. Certainly, there have been many. I was also reflecting on the fact that Pope John Paul II was a man from a small European country of just on 40 million people, a population of about twice the size of Australia. It was from this relatively small country that one of the world's great leaders was drawn to eventually take such a leading role in the latter half of the twentieth century. The Premier outlined the Pope's important role in the fall of communism and many other world events. It was a man from Poland who was to change the face of the pontificate. Traditionally, popes during the previous 400 years had all been Italian. But this man from the small country of Poland, this man of great intellect, great capacity and great strength of character, was to have such an important role in the history of the world.
It is also worth noting that 95 per cent of the population of Poland are Catholics. Probably as significant, if not more significant, is the fact that 75 per cent of those Catholics are practising Catholics. I am sure the bishops of Australia would love to see such a rate within our country. Indeed, I am sure the Archbishop of Sydney would love to see such a rate within his archdiocese. As has been said, the Pope became famous for his world travel. He made 104 trips outside Italy, visiting countries to the north, south, east and west. That included two trips to Australia, in 1986 and 1995. This gives us some insight into the pastoral leadership of our Polish Pope, a man who was prepared to travel to all corners of the earth to stay in touch not only with his Catholic flock but with all peoples of the world, spreading the message that—to quote Cardinal Clancy's homily last night—the dignity of the individual was important. Each person and each country meant something to this leader of the church.
As has also been said, it was traditional that as the Pope visited these countries he would leave his plane and kiss the ground on which he was to stand. That has great significance not only to us now as we reflect but, more importantly, to the countries he visited. The Pope had a great belief in and desire for world peace. Sadly, that was not achieved in his lifetime, but certainly his efforts were directed towards it. Reference has also been made to the Pope's work with other religious groups. It was part of his desire to see a world communal bond that would lead to world peace. Of course, poverty is still very much a part of the international community. Last night my wife mentioned to me the great tragedy that exists on our doorstep, in East Timor, something the nuns of St Joseph are still working on strongly in that community. Poverty is something that the world's communities still need to address. That was part of Pope John Paul II's role as an international leader.
Perhaps it is because of my age, but I cannot think of anyone who has had such a significant role within the international community. His leadership, his recognition among other world leaders, and the fact that so many world leaders will attend his funeral in Rome this Friday, speak to his status within that international leadership group. It is worth noting that the Pope had nearly 1,000 audiences and meetings with heads of state and Prime Ministers. That says something about his desire to be in touch with that leadership group. It also says something about his ability to communicate with people other than those at that level. The Leader of the Opposition outlined in his anecdote the pontiff's ability to communicate with people at all levels, whether they be international leaders or people on the street. That is very important.
The Pope was well known for the many languages he could speak. But, of course, communication is more than the words; it is more than the language. The sincerity of the man came across throughout his communications. As Cardinal Clancy said last night at the requiem service at St Mary's Cathedral, Pope John Paul II showed great strength of character. This was clearly demonstrated following the failed assassination attempt in 1981, which certainly significantly changed his physical wellbeing and, I am sure, also had an impact on his mental status. At the same time, the Pope's strength of character got him through that. But through the media, not only over the past few weeks but also over the past few months and even years, we have clearly seen the Pope's great strength of character while he was obviously suffering because of his ill health.
Last night the Catholic community came together with the civic leaders of Sydney and many people from Christian communities and other religious communities—I believe 5,000 people—with standing room only in the Cathedral. It was fantastic that we could all come together to celebrate the life of the man. We are, of course, saddened by the loss of a Catholic leader and world leader. But, most importantly, last night's service provided an opportunity—and this came through in Cardinal Clancy's homily, and even in the tone of the mass—for us to celebrate the life of a great man. It is important to remember that the Catholic Church is not cathedrals, it is not parish buildings, and it is not popes and bishops. It is the whole communion of people, it is very much a body of people. That is why it is absolutely essential that as we reflect on the life of the Pope we reflect on the life of a man; we reflect on the man's contribution not just to us as individuals, not just to the Australian or the world church, but to the world as a whole entity; that we reflect on what this man has done.
It is also significant that the Pope's death occurred during the Easter season, because it was just prior to Easter that we had the gospel reading relating to Lazarus. I suppose that is part of the great Catholic faith: the belief that in death there is life. That is one of the most important traditions of the faith, just as we believe that John Paul continued the great traditions of the popes, starting with Peter. Reflecting once again on the Easter story, Peter showed his vulnerability and his weakness in the three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, yet he became a leader of the church. Everyone in their weakness has the capacity to do great things. The Pope, a man born in 1920 in Poland, became one of the great leaders of the twentieth century. As Cardinal Clancy said last night, in years to come we may reflect on one of the great leaders not just of the twentieth century but over the centuries, indeed one of the great leaders of the millennium.
As we reflect on the life of the Pope, and, indeed, on his death, we also reflect on our own fallibility. It gives us all an opportunity to reflect on where we are, what we believe in, and what we hold important. Most importantly, I say on behalf of the Georges River community that tonight we should be celebrating the life of a great man, a great leader, and a great Catholic. I thank the House for its indulgence in allowing me to speak to the motion.
Mr ANDREW STONER (Oxley—Leader of The Nationals) [9.19 p.m.]: On behalf of the New South Wales Nationals I am honoured to speak to this condolence motion for his Holiness Pope John Paul II. It is a time of great sadness but also, as the honourable member for Georges River pointed out, a time for celebration of the life of a great man. I firmly believe that Pope John Paul II was indeed a great man. He was a good man who had the admiration and respect of countless people from all nations around the world. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I am not a Catholic but I share a lot with the Catholic faith. Indeed, some have suggested in a way I am an honorary Catholic: my wife and I have six children, which kind of qualifies us; prior to entering the Parliament I was employed by the St Agnes Parish at Port Macquarie under the legendary Father Donnelly; my mother attended a Catholic convent; and my wife was Catholic. We now call ourselves Christian and in so doing share a great deal of the Catholic faith. We believe Jesus Christ was the Son of God, we believe in God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and we acknowledge all the very good works that the Catholic Church does in our communities throughout the State, this nation and indeed the world.
This is a motion about Pope John Paul II, who was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice in Poland on 18 May 1920 and who, sadly, died on 2 April. He grew up with both Christian and Jewish friends and it was this that influenced him to work towards a Christian reconciliation with the Jews. His mother died in 1929 when he was aged just nine, and he also lost his older brother—his only sibling—in 1932. His father raised him in a small one-bedroom apartment tucked behind the church. He was encouraged to study in a cold room to encourage concentration skills, although the nature of some of the Polish winters encouraged playing soccer in the apartment.
After graduating from high school, Karol moved to Cracow, where he enrolled in the Jagellonian University in 1938 to study literature and philosophy, although his father had hoped he would join the seminary. After the Germans invaded Poland, Karol escaped deportation and gaol by taking a job as a stonecutter in a quarry. In February 1941 his 61-year-old father died, seeing his wish for Karol entering the seminary unfulfilled. This troubled Karol, who began studying at an underground seminary school. He then worked in a chemical plant and also began theology courses at the University at Cracow while trying to gain information about which of his Jewish friends had been sent to the ghettos or death camps.
In 1944, with German troops beginning to round up all young Polish men, Karol and his friends took refuge in the Archbishop of Cracow's home until the end of the war. On 1 November 1946 Karol was ordained and on 2 November that year he celebrated his first Mass. He then received his licentiate in theology and travelled to France, Belgium and Holland, where he undertook pastoral duties with migrant Polish workers, after which he returned to Poland, earning a Masters degree in theology and a doctorate in sacred theology. In 1949 he began as an assistant pastor at St Florian's Parish.
In 1958 Father Wojtyla was appointed assistant Bishop at Cracow. He started to focus his writings on individual freedom and responsibility, which he saw as the most obvious flaw in Communist philosophy. He helped set up secret clubs for Catholic intellectuals, founded an underground seminary for future priests of Czechoslovakia, and helped with the development of a leading Catholic newspaper—somewhat like the Catholic Weekly in New South Wales—that proved to be an effective vehicle for opposition to the Communist regime.
In 1962 Father Wojtyla attended the landmark first session of the second Vatican Council as one of its youngest members and, in 1963, was ordained Metropolitan Archbishop of Cracow. From this position he led other Polish bishops in publishing a statement of reconciliation with German bishops with the words, "We forgive and ask forgiveness" for the atrocities committed during World War II. For the next few years Bishop Wojtyla's work in Poland and his writings gained him a powerful ally in Pope Paul VI, leading to his appointment as cardinal, becoming the youngest amongst 27 new cardinals appointed by Pope Paul VI.
He then travelled widely, visiting Polish groups in many countries in addition to being one of the most prolific writers in the church, with his 1969 work, The Person and Actions being one of his most important. Cardinal Wojtyla became the first Polish leader of the Catholic Church to visit the Jewish community and synagogue in Cracow. On 14 October 1978 Cardinal Karol Wojtyl was elected as the 264th pope. He chose the name John Paul II in honour of his predecessor, as well as Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. He was the first non-Italian pope for 455 years and, aged 58, the youngest pope for 132 years.
At his inauguration the Pope challenged the church to regain its evangelical fervour and resolve, especially regarding the right of religious freedom. He was a traditionalist who sought to return to the values of the church by a return to the Scriptures for guidance in an increasingly morally ambiguous world. He narrowly survived an assassination attempt on 30 May 1981 that left him in intensive care for four days, a bullet having narrowly missed vital organs. The would-be assassin, a Turkish national named Mehmet Ali Agca, claimed to have shot the Pope "in order to protest against the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the United States".
Agca confessed that he had acted at the instigation of the Bulgarian Secret Service and the Soviet KGB, which had conspiracy theorists saying the Soviet Union was behind the assassination attempt to prevent the Pope from supporting the Solidarity movement. But in a gesture that showed the Pope's humility, just days after the assassination attempt he forgave the would-be assassin. When the Pope met Mr Agca in his cell two years later, he presented him with a Medal of Fatima, which prompted Agca to tell the Pope his motive for the attack. The Pope refused to disclose what was discussed, then pressured the authorities to have Agca pardoned.
The Pope beatified 1,338 and canonised 482 people, far more than his predecessors. This was part of his vision for bringing people back to the Catholic faith. Many of these saints were people from ordinary working-class backgrounds, including Australia's own Mary MacKillop, whom we hope will become Australia's first saint. The Pope's Catechism, the first for 526 years, is seen as one of his legacies and ensures his place in the church's history. The document contained statements for the inclusion and embracing of those of other faiths, including Muslims and Jews, reflecting the Pope's commitment to engage with people of different faiths and backgrounds, and to embrace all as friends. He was highly respected by world leaders and was a skilled linguist, speaking Polish, Latin, English, French, German and Italian.
In fact, it was his fluent Italian that helped to break down barriers that his appointment as a non-Italian pope initially had created. Pope John Paul II was also the most widely travelled pope in history, visiting six continents and 129 countries during his 104 trips outside Italy, visiting 317 of the 333 parishes throughout the world. His visits to Poland in 1979, 1983 and 1987 are said to have helped galvanise opposition to the Soviet-backed Communist regime. The Pope's life is well summarised by his 1984 statement:
Suffering contains a special call to the virtue which every man must exercise on his part: the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes him harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes the hope which will maintain in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him—that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life. In suffering there is concealed power which draws a person close to Christ. When this body is gravely ill, totally incapacitated, and the person is almost incapable of living and acting, all the more do interior maturity and spiritual greatness become evident …
It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls. In suffering, a man discovers himself—his own humanity, his own dignity, his own mission.
The Pope certainly lived out those words in his last months. His own suffering and decline in health was marked by incredible grace and dignity, something which I believe held him up as a great man around the world, a man on whom many will fix their admiration. He also established a stance for moral absolutes in a time when society seems to embrace various forms of liberalisation. The Pope espoused the standards to which the human race ought to aspire. For that he has my greatest admiration and respect. I am happy to contribute to this condolence motion, not only to mark the death but also to celebrate the life of a very great man, His Holiness Pope John Paul II.
Mr ALAN ASHTON (East Hills) [9.33 p.m.]: I pay tribute to the achievements of Pope John Paul II and offer my condolences to the Catholic Church and its followers worldwide—especially in Australia and my electorate of East Hills—on his death. The Pope suffered ill health for many years—that was no secret to any of us—and was admired for his persistence, until very recently, in fulfilling his duties as Pontiff. The Pope was elected in 1978, aged 58—young by papal standards. Many people in the Catholic faith have never known another pope. Pope John Paul II modernised the Catholic Church and made its opinions on peace in the Middle East and in other hot spots a focus of attention for other world leaders. Previously it was not expected that a pope would enter into public debate on matters of world affairs, certainly not as publicly as Pope John Paul II did.
Karol Wojtyla of Cracow was elected only days after the short pontificate of John Paul I. He was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. At the time this must have seemed a very brave decision by the cardinals who chose him, but Pope John Paul II proved to be a great world statesman in the past 26 years as well as, of course, a great leader of the Catholic Church. The Pope visited more countries and had more contact with ordinary followers of the Catholic faith than any previous pope. His ability to speak so many languages, especially his use of modern media, also set him apart and helped to popularise the Catholic Church, especially in parts of Asia and South America. He also undertook closer co-operation with other Christian and non-Christian religions. Ecumenism was a high priority for him and his papacy.
We have seen the genuine grief and mourning caused by the Pope's death, not only by those of the Catholic faith but also by so many millions of people around the world of various Christian faiths. The Pope in his youth and in his days as a young priest in his homeland of Cracow in Poland also stood bravely against the tyranny of both Nazism and Communism. Also, he was no great fan of unfettered capitalism. He often spoke out representing the poor in many countries. He visited places that popes had not been to before and played a great role in promoting peace in the Middle East. He was very concerned to ensure that the Catholic Church maintained its absolute relevance to its followers and supporters. I offer my condolences on the passing of one of the twentieth century's truly great figures.
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD (Hornsby) [9.37 p.m.]: I speak to the condolence motion on the death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, moved by the Premier and so touchingly supported by the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of The Nationals and many colleagues on both sides of the House. I also express the condolences of the Hornsby electorate. I do so not only to honour the memory and significant contribution of a pope who spoke to Catholics and non-Catholics alike but also to honour Catholics in the area that I represent. I am, indeed, fortunate to have very strong local Catholic communities that include churches and schools. I extend my deep sympathy to all who admired this man of God and to the individuals and families who practise their religion so diligently.
Pope John Paul II was a global ambassador, a truly tireless traveller, who delivered his message to millions. It has been said that he crossed religious divides and, in doing so, he became united with all faiths. Everyone can look at his life and teachings and gain something. Although my family is not Catholic, my two daughters attended a local Catholic primary school, one for the majority of her primary education and the other for the entirety. They became part of a vibrant and cohesive school community, one that my husband and I enjoyed being involved in as well. Now, as the local member representing all people residing in the electorate and having attended a number of church services held in Catholic and other churches, I note that the values taught and the lessons for life promoted are designed to send students and adults alike into the world, equipped to cope and live decent and fulfilled lives.
I have attended many masses. Of particular note, at Christmas time my family has enjoyed midnight mass in a number of local churches, including St Patrick's at Asquith, Our Lady of the Rosary in Waitara and last year at the St George Maronite Church in Thornleigh. We thoroughly appreciated those wonderful services. Last Friday evening, at a celebration of the fourth anniversary of the St George Maronite Church in Thornleigh, I discussed with Bishop Abi Karam and Father Pierre the failing days of the Pope. I include messages from those who have contacted my office to express their sorrow on the passing of a wonderful role model for many. One such call was from a Mr Qureshi, a Muslim who wanted to offer his condolences to the Catholic community on the death of the Pope. On that note I quote an article in today's Daily Telegraph titled "A man for all reasons":
He has also extended an olive branch to Muslims. One of his first trips as Pontiff was to Muslim Turkey; in 1985, he visited Morocco at the invitation of the King, where he addressed 50,000 young Muslims; and he also referred to Muslims as "brothers and sisters in the face of Abraham", often praising their devotion to spiritual practices.
On a visit to Syria in 2001, he became the first Pope to enter a mosque, stepping into a historic shrine alongside Muslim leaders after making a call for Muslims, Christians and Jews to work for peace. It was the first time a leader of the Roman Catholic Church had entered a mosque in the 1800-year history of Islam.
Syria is also where St Paul converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus.
With every ending—I am sure that the life and work of John Paul II will live on in many ways—there is also a beginning. In the context of recognising the passing of a great man, I wish the cardinals well in the choice of a successor.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron) [9.41 p.m.]: Tonight I join in the condolence motion moved by the Premier and supported by members on both sides of the House, and express my sympathy at the passing of Pope John Paul II. In that I also represent the people of Heffron, including the large population of Catholics. More than 30 per cent of my electorate identify as Roman Catholic. I know that the communities of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Waterloo, St Bernards, Botany, St Teresas, Mascot, St Josephs, Rosebery, St Mary's, Erskineville, and my own parish, Our Lady of the Rosary at Kensington, join me in that. Tonight many members have noted some of the accomplishments of this Pope: his role in the downfall of communism, his evangelisation efforts and his engagement with other religions and faiths, his respect for the dignity of human life from the point of conception through to death, and his revitalisation of the intellectual life of the church.
Pope John Paul II was elected in 1978—a year that coincided with my own feminist awakenings and intellectual curiosity. In 1978 I was in year 3 at St Josephs Primary School in Ohio. I called the Bishop of Toledo on a call-back radio station to ask why girls could not be altar servers. He gave a very unsatisfactory answer, and started in me what became a lifelong quest and intellectual curiosity about the role of women in the church—a quest that eventually led to a master's degree in religious studies specialising in feminist theology. As I said, the Pope revitalised the intellectual life of the church. As I spent a great deal of my life before entering this Parliament as a person engaged in intellectual discussions about the faith, I appreciated the Pope's keen interest in that area of the faith.
Gregg Easterbrook, writing in the New Republic, said that Pope John Paul II was a student keenly interested in modern philosophy. He revived the intellectual life of the church. Several popes had offered an uneasy truce with science. John Paul II was openly enthusiastic about science, declaring that he believed most modern scientific thinking on the Big Bang, the expansion of the universe, the age of the earth and especially Darwinian evolution. The Pope loved ideas and intellectual argument, and he encouraged others to love these, too. The effect was contagious, reviving the intellectual debate within the Catholic hierarchy and showing the world a pope with an inquiring mind, not just a rote follower of dogma.
In 1991 I was privileged to join seven other young Catholics as part of the United States of America bishops' official delegation to a three-day world youth congress in Czestochowa, Poland. Run by the Vatican, the congress gathered approximately 250 young people from around the world and served as a lead-up to World Youth Day. I was fresh out of university, and I had recently relinquished the presidency of a national organisation of student governments at Catholic colleges and universities. Being stridently feminist, I had more than a few arguments with John Paul II when I set off for Poland: women's ordination, celibacy in the priesthood, lifelong vocations and contraception topped my list.
The three days of the congress were challenging, fascinating and invigorating. A high point included a debate with a Lithuanian delegate on whether dissension to Papal teaching is detrimental to the church. I also met a lot of young adults who shared my passion for the gospel, activism and social justice, including delegates from Sudan, Bulgaria and Australia. As official delegates, we were given roles in the Papal liturgies that shaped World Youth Day. As it was the first time that such an openly religious and international gathering of people had taken place in Poland, the atmosphere was electric, with an estimated 1.4 million young Catholics from around the globe joining the Pope in the land of his birth.
My job was to read the English version of the second reading in the vigil service. Speaking to one of the Australian delegates, Ben Keneally, before the liturgy, I remarked on how unsettling it was to see the euphoria and the near hero worship of the Pope that was displayed by many of the young people. For goodness sake, I told Ben, this was just a man. All the crying, the emotion and the adulation seemed a bit unwarranted. Ben agreed. I did the second reading and at the last minute, thinking I was quite clever, I made unapproved changes to the text to render it gender inclusive. Then, as I had been instructed to do, I turned to the Pope and bowed. At that point he looked directly at me, smiled and nodded.
I do not think it was because he approved of my gender-free rendition of Romans—I doubt whether he could hear it as he was sitting behind the sound system. I can only describe that moment as full of grace. At that point it was as if the love of God was focused solely on me, and I felt holiness. For the first time in my life I understood what it meant to receive the grace of God. When I got back to my seat I tried to explain the sensation to my Australian friend, Ben, who remained sceptical and convinced that I had caved in to the emotionalism of the moment. But I believed that something otherworldly had occurred. Despite myself, and for the first time, I truly believed that John Paul II was God's representative on earth.
I saw the Pope again two years later at World Youth Day in Denver, although this time, instead of being an official delegate, I was one of four young people being shadowed by the McNeill-Lehrer NewsHour as its token progressive, left-wing, feminist Catholic. Denver was not Czestochowa, and sitting half a mile from the Pope in the sweltering Colorado heat was not the same as being 10 feet from him on an altar in Poland. Though I yearned for that same sense of grace and love, I could not find it. I subsequently married my Australian friend, Ben Keneally, and moved to Sydney. We saw John Paul II again in Australia in 1994. I wanted to renew the sense of the Pope's connection to the divine but it was hard. He was already suffering the effects of Parkinson's disease, and the concept of attending mass at the Royal Randwick Racecourse was just a bit too weird.
In the years since that first encounter with Pope John Paul II I have held on to my Catholic faith and my feminist convictions. In the Catholic Church I find community, love, grace and forgiveness. The Catholic faith is the first thing my husband, Ben, and I shared. It was our sustenance when our daughter died, and by choosing baptism for our children it is our gift to them. As a feminist I still advocate for the ordination of women and while I accept that children are a gift from God I find such fulfilment in serving my community as a member of Parliament that I have made a decision not to have any more children so I can channel my passion for social justice into other things. For the time being that is my job for the people of my electorate. My decision does not reflect a belief that women cannot be mothers and members of Parliament: I was elected when my own children were only two years and four years old. My point is that there is more than one way to be life-giving.
My response to the news that John Paul II was dying and had died arose both from the Catholic and the feminist in me—from the feminist, hopeful that a new papacy might bring a new approach, but from the Catholic my response is deeper, sadder and possibly disturbing. As the Pope lay dying last week I had to wonder how a person who radiated divine grace could be so wrong about God's intentions for women. If I accept that John Paul II is Christ's representative on earth, how can I believe that he has so grossly misunderstood what God wants for women? After all, faith is accepting what we cannot understand. This Pope came as close as possible to teaching infallibly that women cannot be priests, leaving future pontiffs with very little wriggle room. In good conscience I cannot accept that he is right.
Therefore, the life of John Paul II leaves me with the confronting question that perhaps I would rather not face: Either a very holy man is wrong or I do not have enough faith. It is a challenging proposition no matter how I look at it. Perhaps the Pope was wrong about women. After all, the bishops of Toledo turned out to be wrong about girls as altar servers. Ultimately, the answer will come following faithful attention to church tradition and intellectual debate about men and women, drawing insight from anthropology, psychology and theology. Of one thing I am certain: the Pope's revitalisation of the intellectual life of the church leaves us, the Catholic Church, ready for such a discussion.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Gosford) [9.52 p.m.]: In 1995 the Pope came to Sydney as part of a visit to Australia which had the ultimate purpose of the beatification of the blessed Mary MacKillop. On the night he arrived, he addressed a large gathering in the Domain. He began by speaking about how Sydney Harbour had been the welcoming haven to him and how Sydney Harbour had been the welcoming haven to the first Australians some 200 years before. He drew the analogy of people travelling in hope, that just as the early settlers coming to Australia had travelled in hope of finding a better world and a better land, all of us in this life travel in the hope of finding a better world and a better land. The following day at Randwick racecourse he carried out the beatification of the blessed Mary MacKillop. On that occasion, speaking about Mary MacKillop and speaking about our country of Australia, he said:
Blessed Mary MacKillop was not daunted by the great desert, the immense expanses of the outback, nor by the spiritual wilderness which affected so many of her fellow citizens, rather she boldly prepared the way of the Lord.
Mary MacKillop embodied all that was best in your nation and in its people: genuine openness to others, hospitality to strangers, generosity to the needy, justice to those unfairly treated, perseverance in the face of adversity, kindness and support to the suffering.
To him we owe the beatification of the first Australian to be raised to the status of being blessed, but to him we also owe a vision that he achieved for the whole world through his suffering and dynamic commitment to the Christian ideal. In 1993, when I was Minister for the Environment, as part of my overseas official visit, I went to Rome. Through the courtesy of the Ambassador to the Holy See I was able to attend the public audience the Pope gave each Wednesday in the Paul VI auditorium. As an official guest I was seated in the front row, along with my wife.
At the end of his address and after he had bestowed the apostolic benediction, he came down to meet the guests in the official row. I was overwhelmed in a way that I probably had never been before. In a few seconds, as he walked along the queue, I was to meet the head of my church. I was amazed at my own calmness. I wondered how one feels in this situation. All sorts of turmoil went through my mind. Of all the meetings I was to have on this earth, however brief and however unprepared, this was to be the most significant meeting of my life.
When I met him I was a little surprised how calm I was and I realised it was he who made me feel calm. He took my hand and said, "Where are you from?" I said, "Australia, Holy Father." He said, "Australia, a wonderful country. God bless you. God bless your family." He moved on to my wife, who was so overwhelmed by the occasion that she forgot to kiss his ring and to genuflect. She felt extremely mortified afterwards. As I said to her, I doubt that he would have cared. He was just so much a person of the people. His entire life was poured out in commitment to his beliefs, his Christian faith and to the dignity of man.
In his first announcements he spoke of his twofold mission. One was to strengthen the faith of the church through evangelisation, the other was to uphold the dignity of man. Throughout his life they were his two challenges: through faith to uphold human dignity; through faith to uphold a recognition that all of us—whatever our background, whatever our belief, whatever our history and whatever our country—are children of God and are inspired by God, however we may behold him. Throughout his life he sought to achieve certain objectives. One was, as I said, to strengthen the faith of the church and to uphold human dignity. Another objective was to open a dialogue with other Christian faiths and with non-Christian faiths.
He devised a plan for himself to achieve his objectives. The first was to travel throughout the world to spread a message of Christian faith, a message of hope and also a message of sharing all that is good in the world with every person and with every nation. That is why when arriving in each nation he kissed the soil of that country to show his demonstrated love for its people and that country, regardless of its history, regardless of its religious persuasion. He also sought to create saints so they would become role models for all people at all different stages and stations in life.
Some 480 saints were created and each of them was to be, in his words, a light on our journey so we would learn from each one of them and be able to improve, strengthen and increase our own faith, our own willingness to serve, through an understanding of the vocation of service given by each of the saints. I was enormously moved to be able to attend the canonisation of the 313 Chinese martyrs in St Mary's Cathedral. I thought about how each one of them had died. Each one of them had been killed. Each one had given his life as witness to the Christian faith at various stages in the evangelisation of China. In Australia, while it is challenging to be Christian, it is so easy compared to the life and tribulation of Christians in so many other countries.
The third point the Holy Father sought to achieve was to develop a greater understanding of the theology of the church, to update it and to propagandise it throughout the world. He issued encyclical after encyclical to spread the message of Christianity as he saw it. In one of his great encyclicals, Evangelium Vitae, Latin for the gospel of life, he spoke of euthanasia and of the challenge that euthanasia and the debate about euthanasia pose for modern society. He said that euthanasia involves a culture of death. He said that euthanasia encouraged the perception that death is to be seen as a solution to life's problems and not as the natural end to life itself. He said that a good death is as important to all of us as a good life.
Death cannot be seen at any stage of the social process as a solution to a problem. Death must be seen as the natural end of life and not as a solution to deal with the challenges we face in life. Legalising euthanasia would impose an expectation upon the dying or seriously ill that they will consider, among the options of treatment for their illness and palliative care, the option of death itself. That creates an enormous burden, an unspoken but extremely agonising expectation, on the seriously ill to consider relieving the burden upon their family and carers by taking the option of euthanasia.
No matter what the issue, no matter what the swelling tide of public opinion, no matter what the demands of political correctness, the Pope stood firm on what he believed to be the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. He never wavered from them. In his life as a young man in Poland, in his life in the army, in his life working as a labourer in the quarry, in his life working as an underground priest against an oppressive regime—firstly of the Nazis and secondly of the communists—he remained always true to his principles until those final days that we witnessed as, in agony, he continued to maintain his role as the shepherd and pastor of his flock. He was true to the commission given to him by Christ through the words of St. John's gospel, where he commands him to "feed my lambs and feed my sheep". The Mayor of Gosford, at a meeting of Gosford council last Monday night that paid tribute to the Holy Father, spoke these words, "He boarded his airline to heaven carrying a passport to eternal life."
John Paul II would not wish to be remembered as a great Pope; he would not wish to be remembered as a great man; he would wish to be remembered as a servant of God who sought in all his works and in all his life to do God's will. That is the challenge he leaves to each one of us: not that we should regard him as a wonderful man, although all of us acknowledge that he was a wonderful man, but that, like him, in our own lives we should seek to live the expectations of the Christian gospel. That is the challenge that life places before us all. That is the challenge that he saw as a young man, that he saw in his pontificate, and from which he never wavered. His commitment to the defeat of communism was never political; his commitment to the defeat of communism was to uphold the dignity of the human being so that in every society humans would be valued for themselves and for their own dignity and not simply seen as ciphers of a state or a political system. The world has been enriched by the life and times of Pope John Paul II but the challenge to the world continues. We can now celebrate his life, and acknowledge his death. I close by quoting from the concluding hymn sung last night in the pontifical requiem mass in St Mary's Cathedral:
Far from our sight you journey: travel well.
All still are one who he is the promise giv'n
one battle joined to conquer death and hell,
one Lord of all, on earth as now in heav'n,
whose love can lead us through the darkest night
to live in joy and everlasting light.
Mrs BARBARA PERRY (Auburn) [10.04 p.m.]: As a Catholic and as a member.of this House it is a great honour for me to submit my strong support for the motion of condolence on the passing of Pope John Paul II. There have been few moments in history when the death of a single man has evoked such universal respect and outpouring of affection and grief. Counted amongst those paying tribute we see not only Catholics but also people of other faiths and from other walks of life, heads of state and royalty. Although this high praise is more than fitting for the life of such an outstanding man, I do not doubt for a moment that Pope John Paul II never sought personal glory or gain. Born on 18 May 1920 to a poor family living in a small town outside Cracow in Poland, Karol Wojtyla knew humble beginnings and hardship from birth. At the tender age of nine he faced the death of his mother and the sting of poverty and daily struggle to survive in the harsh years leading up to the German invasion of Poland in 1939.
By this time he was enrolled in university, where he had begun to excel. But it was not long before the Nazis closed it down and forced him to work in a quarry and chemical factory at the risk of being deported to Germany. In 1942 at age 22 young Karol showed the first signs of the fearlessness and courage that would later become some of his most defining qualities—he began studying at an underground seminary in Cracow in response to the religious calling on his life. Eventually his studies culminated in the awarding of a doctorate degree, which he soon put to good use as professor of moral theology—and social ethics. But the learning was not to end there. Over time Karol not only acquired another doctorate degree but also learned to speak Latin, English, French, German and Italian in addition to his native tongue, Polish.
The tremendous acquisition of knowledge, wisdom and life experience that occurred was surpassed only by the growing love and passion he felt for people and social justice. In 1978 Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected the first non-Italian pope in 456 years, an astounding accomplishment that no doubt was a measure of how highly he was regarded by the church and his fellow cardinals. Although the achievements of Pope John Paul II have been well spoken about in the press and by other members this evening, there are a few that I would like to speak about also. Most notably I reflect on the pivotal role he played in the downfall of communism. Pope John Paul II had the wisdom and tact to affirm human dignity and freedom in such a way that brought political change without needless bloodshed and hostility. His genuine and sincere concern for all humanity also led him to take a stance against the insanity of the arms race, which for a while looked capable of threatening the very existence of our planet. Always a man of peace, during his visit to Ireland in 1979 Pope John Paul, speaking to a crowd of 250,000, uttered the words:
On my knees I beg you to turn away from violence. Further violence will only drag down to ruin the land you claim to love and the values you claim to perish.
In a further speech in 1982 he said:
War should belong to the tragic past, to history. It should find no place on humanity's agenda for the future.
In the Middle East, which many would argue is the centre of the most dangerous and deeply entrenched conflict of all time, Pope John Paul II brought his message of reconciliation and peace. Visiting Jerusalem in 2000 he shared his love and sympathy for both Palestinians and Israelis and somehow, in a manner fitting the most skilled and tactful of statesmen, managed to avoid attempts by both sides to politicise the visit. Whilst there he attended the Holocaust Memorial of Yad Vashem, where he brought tears to the eyes of many of the Jews gathered, much like he did whilst reading a prayer for reconciliation requesting forgiveness from the God of Abraham for the church's sins against Jews throughout the centuries. Pope John Paul II was a man who said sorry more times than any of his predecessors, for he knew the power and importance of asking for forgiveness. It is my hope that his example will serve to inspire us as political leaders and private individuals. In May 2001 in Damascus, Syria, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to enter a mosque, where he said:
In this holy land, Christians, Muslims and Jews are called together, with confidence and boldness to bring about without delay the day when the legitimate rights of all people are respected and they can live in peace and mutual understanding.
It was clear that he had love, respect and concern for Arabs, Jews, Muslims and Christians alike without distinction or favour. He was deeply committed to interfaith dialogue and made great strides in furthering that cause. Pope John Paul II was also an outspoken and fervent proponent of the importance of justice and equality. That was reflected in the Catholic Church itself where, for the first time ever, women enjoyed career equality in lay leadership and, as a result, can now be seen serving as Eucharistic ministers, missionaries, ministers to the sick, altar girls and members of parish committees. All in all, Pope John Paul II will be forever remembered not only as a religious figure of great significance, but also as a great humanitarian, peacemaker and statesman. On a personal note of sadness, I will miss his leadership of the Catholic Church and the graceful presence and constant assurance to all that we need not be afraid. I do hope that in my own small way I will be able to build on his legacy and draw on the inspiration of a life so well lived.
Mr THOMAS GEORGE (Lismore) [10.11 p.m.]: I support the motion and want to place on record the feeling and mood which is present in this House during the past hour, since the Premier made his contribution, followed by the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of The Nationals and other members of this House. They have so eloquently put into words the effect that Pope John Paul II has had on them as individuals. It is humbling to think that he has had the same profound effect on members of this House as he has had on people all around the world. Emotion is certainly present tonight while we pay tribute to this wonderful person.
Like so many members of this House, last night I had the privilege and honour to be present at the solemn Mass that was celebrated at St Mary's Cathedral for the repose of the soul of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. The principal celebrant was Bishop Julian Porteous and three Cardinals were in attendance—His Eminence Cardinal Edward Clancy, who delivered a homily that I wish could be recorded here tonight; His Eminence Cardinal Edward Cassidy; and His Excellency Archbishop Ambrose de Paoli, the Apostolic Nuncio—together with a number of priests, clergy, leaders of the community, mums and dads, husbands and wives, and many young people. To be present last night was an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I also want to place on the record what has happened in my own community. Sadly, I have been unable to be in Lismore since the Pope's passing, because of commitments associated with the sittings of Parliament. The Northern Star newspaper led the way on Monday with the headline, "Pope Mourned. Northern Rivers pays final tribute to spiritual Father." The accompanying article stated:
Across the Northern Rivers, Catholics flocked to their churches to mourn the passing of a man many say was the greatest spiritual leader of the modern era.
A warrior for freedom, democracy and human dignity, yet a man of peace, the charismatic Pontiff lived to fulfil one of his greatest ambitions—to lead the Catholic Church into the new millennium.
The Pope's passing provided an opportunity for local Catholics and other members of the community to unite in mourning someone they described as a man of the people. The same newspaper went on to describe what happened:
With hands clasped and tear-stained faces, the Carmelite Monastery Sisters in Lismore prayed that their Holy Father, the late Pope John Paul II, would have the most beautiful welcome in heaven.
I can imagine the gates of heaven opening up to welcome him. The article continued:
Mother Johanne and Sister Teresa spoke of their beloved Holy Father on Saturday, knowing he was not long for this earth.
The Sisters said they had been praying for him every day and were using a powerful prayer, Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is said for people who are dying.
"I think he was a great mystic and I'm sure Our Lady had revealed to him when he would die," Mother Johanne said.
"He was a saint and martyr who lived his faith and the truth—he was Our Lady's special Pope.
"He understood the power of the Mother. I have been crying for him, he was a real gift.
A mass was celebrated in Lismore Cathedral by Father Michael Alcock, who can remember the first three words uttered by John Paul II when he was elected Pope. Those words were "Be not afraid". A newspaper article on Monday, 4 April stated:
"He used his life in that way and his death is witness to it. He was not afraid to die, believing that God held him in the palm of his hand," the Lismore St Carthage's Cathedral assistant priest said yesterday.
Fr Alcock said the parishioners prayed for the Pope during yesterday's Mass.
"He's the only Pope I've remembered in my life, because he's been in that position since I was 16-years-old," he said.
I must be old because I have known of six popes, with a seventh to come! Father Alcock said that the Pope was a very spiritual man, that he travelled a lot and interacted with leaders of other religions. Father Alcock believes that, to the Pope, we are all one family, all people in the world are like brothers and sisters, and he acted accordingly. The reaction to the Pope's passing in the electorate of Lismore has echoed reaction around the world. Bishop Jarrett, the Bishop of the Lismore diocese, said he saw Pope John Paul II in Rome last October and found him to be ill but still very alert. Bishop Jarrett continued:
"When he saw me he said, 'Lismore, you have come a long way'. I didn't think he would remember me from my previous visits a year before, but he did. It was amazing to see this spirit imprisoned in a body that he could not express himself in anymore."
"I found he was a man of great humility—he wanted to hear from you about your people. He was like a universal Father which is why Catholics feel a real sense of loss."
Bishop Jarrett referred to the Pope as one of the greatest figures of influence of the post World War II period. He said:
I think he's been one of the pivotal figures in the history of the church.
An article in today's edition of the Northern Star newspaper under the headline, "Fond memories of guarding the Pope. It was a career highlight, says retired NSW cop", stated:
Working for the NSW Police, Deryck Martin knew he would meet his share of unsavoury characters, but he never expected to get up close and personal with one of the world's most loved leaders—His Holiness Pope John Paul II.
"It was one of the highlights of my career to be put in charge of security, receiving and examining all deliveries of gifts to his Holiness … during his first visit to Sydney in 1986," said the retired Detective Senior Constable, who now lives at Lismore Heights.
"At the end of the Pope's visit he met about 40 of us who had been involved with his protection at St Mary's Cathedral."
"He thanked us all, personally shaking hands with us and blessing us, also giving us a set of rosary beads and a gold medallion commemorating his visit."
"Meeting the Pope was a uniquely special holy moment for me. He was such a compassionate and humble man."
Right across the community everyone has been touched, as evidenced by those lovely comments recorded in our local newspaper. I could go on for hours citing comments from people on the streets who have paid tribute to and appreciated this man's life, but I will not take up the time of the House because I am aware that many more members wish to speak to the motion. On behalf of my electorate I extend sympathy, blessings and prayers to Pope John Paul II. In conclusion I wish to quote from the card with the beautiful holy picture that was presented to us last night. It says:
Father, in your wise and loving care
you made your servant, John Paul,
Pope and teacher of all your Church.
He did the work of Christ on earth.
May your Son welcome him to eternal glory,
where he lives and reigns
with you and with the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. AMEN
Pope John Paul II, Your Holiness, may you rest in peace.
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE (Strathfield) [10.21 p.m.]: I offer my condolence on behalf of the people of the electorate of Strathfield, in Sydney's inner west, upon the death of Pope John Paul II. It was a sad day for humanity to lose a leader who had done so much to unite differing peoples and warring factions and bring nations together to overcome age-old problems of conflict. But as the world mourns the loss of a great leader we should look back and reflect on the life of Pope John Paul II and draw inspiration from this very special man.
Pope John Paul's childhood was marked by the death of his mother when he was 9 and the death of his elder brother when he was 12. As a young man in Nazi-occupied Poland he studied at an underground seminary and was ordained in 1946. As a young priest in Poland he excelled in his studies in theology, and founded a counselling service for young people and focused his preachings on individual freedom and responsibility. The loss of loved ones as a child and his struggle for survival in his early life against a malevolent dictatorship and corrupted ideology only served to strengthen his will to succeed and deepen his profound religious conviction. It was these qualities that led to his eventual appointment as Pope in 1978.
Christ committed to the Apostles the job of preaching his word in his name, that is, authentically. He assured them of the assistance of the spirit, who would guard them in all truth in speaking, as referred to in John 14, 16 and 26. God's son continues to speak to us through those he chooses to send in his name, as referred to in John 15 and 16. Spokesmen for God must not be self-appointed; they must be called in his name, as referred to in John 13 to 28. As Pope, John Paul II used his appointment to carry his message to a worldwide audience. I think it would be appropriate to mention the Second Vatican Council in the Gaudium et spes, the pastoral constitution on the church in the modern world. Section 80 states:
Every act of war which tends indiscriminately to the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their populations is a crime against God and man himself, and is to be condemned firmly and without hesitation.
The reason I quote that section from Gaudium et spes is that it is well known that Pope John Paul II spoke out against the evils of a nuclear arms race and travelled to his Polish homeland prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain. In an effort to promote reconciliation and peace, he travelled to locations such as the Middle East and Ireland, and encouraged dialogue and forgiveness as a means to end wars. It is well known that he condemned the recent war in Iraq. I think of the almost tragic event when an assassin tried to take Pope John Paul's life. He immediately forgave his would-be assassin, and he visited the gaoled gunman in his cell and successfully campaigned for his early release from prison. If we look back at the life of Christ, and particularly his crucifixion, we recall that when he was on the cross together with the other two men who were to be crucified, just before he died Christ looked at the guards who had been part of the whole process of his crucifixion and he said, "God forgive them, for they know not what they do."
I am sure all of us would have experienced hurtful things being said about us, or a situation that is very hurtful or that makes us feel sad or perhaps stressed. When Christ forgave those guards he forgave people he did not know. In our own families, people sometimes say hurtful things but, because we have built up a long-term relationship with them and it is unconditional love, we forgive them. But for the Pope to forgive a person he did not know at all—not a person who simply said something unkind but a person whose sole purpose and intent was to take his life—says a lot about this wonderful man. With Christ, the guards were getting on with doing the job they had to do. They did not ask to be forgiven, but Christ, with his wonderful, profound love, simply forgave them. Similarly with the Pope, his would-be assassin did not seek to be forgiven, but the Pope went out of his way to help this man by forgiving him.
In his later years the Pope suffered with Parkinson's disease, a terrible, debilitating disease, but he refused to yield to his illness. He applied the combination of mental strength and religious belief in order to defeat his physical frailty, and in doing so he brought dignity to the disabled and other people in our society who have some sort of disability, which makes their lives so much more difficult. As Pope he steered the church through what I believe to be an age of extremes, using his considerable intellect to find ways to use his faith to address an array of problems, and he carried his message across continents to young and old alike.
In our contemporary, post-modern world, in an era of global media and mass communication, the Pope raised the profile of the Catholic Church by promoting himself as a humble servant of Christ. And in an age of mass marketing and shallow consumerism his humility stands out as an inspiration to all of humanity. In conclusion I would like to share with the House a prayer by St Augustine—who has written some wonderful works—that encapsulates Pope John Paul II and what real, unconditional love is all about. It reads:
Love has the hands to help others;
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has the eyes to see misery.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others;
And it has a heart that can love and bless.
That is what love looks like.
That was Pope John Paul II.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst) [10.29 p.m.]: I support the motion moved earlier this evening by the Premier and express my condolences on the passing of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II. I also suggest that we should celebrate a life well lived. Pope John Paul II was a man who will live in the memories of not only Catholics but all Christians and people of all faiths. He was born in Cracow in Poland in 1920 and became a labourer, a soldier and a man of God. During his life he represented his Catholic faith and he became a man who led the Catholic world, a man who moved from a life of normalcy to the unique position for Catholics of being the bridge to Christ on earth.
I am not a Catholic, I am a Christian, but for almost half my life, for 26 years, Pope John Paul II has led one of the great Christian faiths—the Catholic Church. In that time he certainly impacted on my life, as he has on the lives of so many other Christians and, indeed, because of the way he has gone about his Christian faith he has impacted on many well beyond the Christian faiths: he has reached out to people of the Jewish faith, to Muslims and to people of all faiths. This is perhaps the lasting legacy of this great man. It was interesting for me tonight to hear some of the very personal testimonies given by members, including the honourable member for Heffron, who raised some of the issues that she struggled with in her Catholicism. As a non-Catholic, over those 26 years I have also considered the issues that she raised and wondered about them in terms of some of the very strict teachings of the Catholic Church that the Pope continued to adhere to over those years.
Nevertheless, whilst those personal challenges for every Christian have to be dealt with—and doubtless the honourable member for Heffron and other members in this Chamber have to deal with those issues—the fact is that Pope John Paul II knew and understood his faith and was prepared to be a man of God who went out and took those principles to Christians in all parts of the world. I think all Christians and people of all faiths would recognise and admire the greatness of Pope John Paul II in his lifelong endeavours, but particularly his 26 years as the great leader of the Catholic Church.
My involvement in the Catholic Church has increased in recent years, particularly as a result of my youngest son being educated within the Catholic system. I have heard other members say that they are in the same situation. I have attended quite a number of church services within the Catholic Church and I admire and respect its Christian principles—subject to those issues that I raised earlier that there are different perspectives within the Catholic Church, as there are within other Christian faiths, on a whole host of issues. But our essential belief in Christ and his rising after death, with the hope that that gives us all, is something that is central to a Christian's approach to life.
As I said, my son attends a Catholic college and many of the issues that are discussed within the Christian framework and within the Catholic Church are issues that Pope John Paul II has effectively almost made his own, and those are the issues of social justice. Whilst we might differ on some of the detail, Pope John Paul II has led the Catholic Church to a new era of tolerance. I remember that 26 years ago, when I was much younger, there were some divisions between the various Christian faiths, and I could never understand why that was so.
I think Pope John Paul II has done more than any man has ever done to recognise what draws each of the Christian faiths together rather than what separates them. He has also done more to recognise what joins the Christian faiths with other faiths and he has created a pontificate of tolerance during his 26 years. I have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Cardinal George Pell and, again, whilst I do not agree with all his views, I certainly believe in the central Christian message that Cardinal Pell conveys in his role as Cardinal for the Catholic Church. In the Catholic Weekly in his Easter message Cardinal Pell reminded all Christians of what we fundamentally believe as Christians. He said:
Christians understand that redemption means that God will forgive our sins if we repent, that all good or godly people will be rewarded in the next life and that goodness will triumph finally over evil and suffering.
Pope John Paul II certainly personified all that was good and all that was godly in the worldly aspects of our life. There is no question that he will be, and has been, rewarded in the next life—as he should be, because what he did for the Catholic Church and for the Christian faith as the representative of Christ for the Catholic Church, is unprecedented in the way he has reached out to the world.
When the Holy Father was obviously quite ill his strength of character came through again. Very few of us would not have seen the image of him attempting to give the Easter blessing in Rome. We saw just how weak he had become in his physical body and yet how strong he remained in his Catholic faith. The frustration on his face as he tried to give the blessing would have tugged at the hearts of every reasonable-minded person. The prayer that was delivered on his behalf and the words that he wished to convey were insightful with regard to his beliefs and the beliefs he would have us understand and adhere to in our daily lives. When he prayed to Christ he said:
Stay with us, faithful friend and sure support for humanity or next journey through history.
Living word of the Father, give hope and trust to all who are searching for the true meaning of their lives.
Bread of eternal life, nourish those who hunger for truth, freedom, justice and peace.
The Holy Father of course was praying to Christ and talking to Christ as a faithful friend, but I say on behalf of the broader community, and I believe also on behalf of people of all faiths, that in his life Pope John Paul II was a faithful friend to all. He was obviously a faithful friend to those he led in the Catholic Church, but also to many beyond it. I respect and acknowledge the greatness of Pope John Paul II. Through its cardinals, the Catholic Church will appoint a new Holy Father in due course. As the honourable member for Heffron observed earlier, that may mean changes in the way the Catholic Church approaches some of the doctrines that caused concern not only to those within the Catholic Church but to those outside it. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church will never replace Pope John Paul II and the greatness he brought to this world and this life.
Ms MARIE ANDREWS (Peats) [10.40 p.m.]: His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who departed this life on 2 April 2005, has left an indelible mark on our world. I believe no other world leader has achieved so much in striving for world peace. Pope John Paul II was, in the true sense of the words, a man for all seasons, a pope for our times, and a pope for all peoples and all ages. As the spiritual leader of more than one billion Catholics around the world, Pope John Paul II was revered as Christ's vicar on earth. However, it is obvious that he embraced all peoples of all nations, regardless of their beliefs. He did not need weapons of war when he embarked upon his world pilgrimages. He reached out to every corner of the universe as an ambassador, yearning for peace among all nations and a more equitable distribution of the world's wealth.
Who was not touched when the Pope alighted from the aircraft and immediately embraced the ground before him? This was not only a symbol of the Pope's immense love for the entire world but a demonstration of his humility. It is well known that the Pope was a great admirer of Mother Teresa. During a trip to India the Pope accompanied Mother Teresa to visit the sick and dying in Calcutta, and it is a measure of the Pope as a human being that he told Mother Teresa she made him feel humble.
Pope John Paul II was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla on 18 May 1920 in Wadowice, a small village in Poland with a population of approximately 10,000 people—8,000 of whom were Catholics and 2,000 of whom followed the Jewish faith. The Pope understood at an early age what it was like to lose a loved one. At the age of eight he lost his mother, and he lost his only sibling, an older brother, a few years later. However, these setbacks did not deter the Pope from doing well at school, where he was a natural leader with an outgoing personality, and a keen sportsman. His Catholic faith was always an important part of his life. He displayed a keen interest in live theatre and during the dark days of the Second World War wrote nationalistic plays and joined the Rhapsodic Theatre group, which was a Polish underground organisation that aimed to retain Polish culture and uphold morale through poetry and dramatic performances.
Further personal tragedy followed the Pope when on 18 February 1941, upon returning home from labouring in a rock quarry, he discovered that his father—who has also named Karol—had died alone. At some time during the next 18 months Karol Wojtyla—affectionately called "Lolek" by his friends—decided to enter the priesthood. He was ordained a priest on 1 November 1946 and impressed church leaders with his ability to operate a vigorous pastorate in spite of restrictions placed upon religious freedom by the communist regime.
On 4 July 1958 he was appointed a bishop by Pope Pius XII and was ordained in Cracow on 28 September 1958. At the Second Vatican Council called under the papacy of Pope Paul VI the then Bishop of Cracow impressed Curia prelates to such an extent that he was appointed Archbishop of Cracow on 13 January 1964. He was made a cardinal on 26 June 1967, at the relatively young age of 47 years. Following the death of Pope John Paul I, he was elected Pope on 16 October 1978 and he was inaugurated on 22 October.
Pope John Paul II was highly educated; he had two doctorates and he also achieved a full professorship at the Polish Catholic University of Lublin. Above all else, the Pope can be largely credited with the peaceful overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe. The fact that these non-violent revolutions occurred is due to a large extent to the Pope's natural charisma and his outstanding communication skills. By a strange twist of fate, the Pope and other Polish church leaders were virtually forced to acquire communication skills when the communist regime denied them access to the media. The Pope and his colleagues travelled extensively among the Polish people, communicating with crowds, both large and small.
The skills acquired by the Pope had a huge impact on global television. As one of Poland's favourite sons, Pope John Paul II worked closely with Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Archbishop of Warsaw, who was a powerful and strong opponent of communism. I daresay that Cardinal Wyszynski, who is also held in high esteem by Catholics throughout the world, was one of the Pope's mentors, particularly in the early years of his priesthood.
I am proud to say that Australia has a strong affinity with Poland and the Polish people. The Poles resisted Nazism through an effective underground movement that helped the Allies from the time of the German invasion in 1939 until the cessation of hostilities in Europe in 1945. Many Polish refugees made Australia their home after the war and many others have migrated to Australia since then. At Anzac Day marches one will always see a strong contingent of Polish ex-service men and women, many of whom served with the British armed forces or were members of the Polish underground. Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, was named after the Polish patriot Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who lived from 1746 to 1817, by P.E. Strzelecki, who explored the Australian Alps in 1840 and reached Kosciuszko from the upper Murray River.
Pope John Paul II upheld Poland's proud record of producing champions of Christianity, freedom and justice. It is well known that he supported Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland's trade union movement, Solidarity. The communist regime was intent on dismantling Solidarity but in the end the Polish trade unionists won through and in 1990 Lech Walesa became Poland's first democratically elected leader after years of fascist and communist suppression.
The Pope visited nearly every corner of the earth in his long and exceptional pontificate. He made his first visit to Australia as Cardinal Wojtyla in 1973 for the Eucharistic Congress held in Melbourne. As Pope, he visited Australia twice: in 1986 and 1995. Like many other Australians, I have fond and vivid memories of those visits. The open air mass that the Pope celebrated at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 25 November on his first visit was extremely well attended. During the same visit the Pope addressed 10,000 workers at the Transfield factory in Western Sydney, where he made the famous statement, "Work is for man not man is for work". He also visited Alice Springs, where he spoke affectionately of the Aboriginal people and encouraged them to retain their culture and their Dreaming.
The Pope's second visit to Sydney took place in January 1995. On this occasion many of my colleagues on both sides of the House and I took time out from the election campaign to attend the open air mass celebrated at Randwick racecourse on 19 January. This was a very special event for Australian Catholics as the Pope presided over the beatification of our own Mother Mary MacKillop, the founder of the Sisters of St Joseph.
As we all know, the Pope was a very strong person. He survived an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca on 13 May 1981. The Pope later visited his would-be assassin in prison and forgave him. The Pope's quest to bring about a more united front between Catholics and other Christian churches has been well recorded. He also worked diligently and with great diplomacy to heal relationships between Catholics, the Jewish and Islamic faiths, and all other religions throughout the world.
More than 5,000 people attended the farewell mass offered for Pope John Paul II in St Mary's Cathedral yesterday evening, Tuesday 5 April. In attendance were the leaders of our nation and dignitaries from many faiths. Most notably, however—and something that would have pleased the Pope—there were Australians from all walks of life and of all ages, including Polish Australians in national costumes, people from other countries now living in Australia, and a large contingent from the Sudan now resident in Sydney. In speaking to this motion of condolence I acknowledge that many Catholics and admirers of Pope John Paul II within the Peats electorate mourn his passing, but they are also thankful for the guidance and leadership he gave to the Church and the world over the past 26 years. Vale Pope John Paul II. May he rest in peace.
Mr STEVEN PRINGLE (Hawkesbury) [10.51 p.m.]: Along with several members of this place and the other place, I had the privilege of attending the Requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II at St Mary's Cathedral last night. The honourable member for South Coast and I arrived some three-quarters of an hour before the service was due to begin and already the cathedral was packed—clear testimony to the extraordinary impact that Pope John Paul II had on the lives of ordinary people, both here in Australia and around the world.
Of course, Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He conducted a very successful crusade against political oppression and spoke on behalf of those who had no voice. He travelled more kilometres than all the other popes combined to spread the Christian message of hope and salvation. He dramatically contributed to the end of the Cold War with his non-violent activism. He made constant efforts to reach out to other faiths, as stated by many honourable members. More importantly, he had the extraordinary ability to connect with large crowds, including teenagers and children 60 or 70 years his junior.
Pope John Paul II was also the true renaissance man: fully rounded, a gifted linguist, adept playwright and actor, deft political activist, athlete, economic critic—a truly versatile man. His life experience prepared him well to be such an inspirational and committed Christian leader. He felt the pain of the death of his parents and his brother, the oppression of the Nazi regime and then Communism, the backbreaking work of a quarry, the challenge of debate, and the joy of belting out a really good song. It is this experience of the real world and an unshakeable Christian faith that has made him such an extraordinary Christian leader and one who will be remembered for years to come. On behalf of Hawkesbury Catholics and the wider community, I celebrate the life of an inspirational Christian leader, who faithfully promoted God's message.
Ms PETA SEATON (Southern Highlands) [10.53 p.m.]: Nearly four million pilgrims are making their way to Rome to farewell a man who led the world's Catholics for almost three decades. The scenes we are watching in Rome are testament to the esteem in which His Holiness Pope John Paul II is held by rich and poor families across all continents. The loss is felt by members of the Catholic faith in my electorate of the Southern Highlands and, no doubt, by many people who, like me, are not Catholic but understand the loss felt by the death of a great spiritual leader, who was respected across world barriers.
I extend my sincere condolences particularly to the Catholic parishes and groups in my community of the Southern Highlands, including St Anthony's and the Josephite Convent at Picton, which have a very special connection with Mother Mary MacKillop, St Anthony's at Tahmoor, the Marist Brothers at Mittagong, the Sacred Heart Fathers at Chevalier College, St Thomas Aquinas Primary School at Bowral, St Paul's International College at Moss Vale, the Sacred Heart Fathers at St Marys Towers at Douglas Park and the Pauline Fathers at Penrose. My thoughts are also with the sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Bowral, Hartzer Park and Kerever Park, the Mittagong Sisters of St Joseph and the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres in Moss Vale.
I also extend my condolences to the Catholic community in the Illawarra and the members of the diocese of Wollongong, which also includes the highlands parishes. As a member of Parliament and an Anglican, I have been honoured and pleased to have been invited on many occasions to share in services at many local Catholic churches. I have always been grateful for the warmth of the welcome I have been given. I can sense the deep sense of loss that is being felt in those communities at this time.
I also extend my condolences to the former Bishop of Wollongong, His Grace Bishop Phillip Wilson, who is now in South Australia and who was generous in his advice to me about ways in which we could work together for the welfare of all local people. His shoes have since been filled by the warmth and humanity of His Grace Bishop Peter Ingham. My thoughts extend to them and their respective congregations at this time. In particular we think now of schoolchildren of the Catholic faith who are looking to their parents and teachers for support and explanation of the event they have experienced and all that it means in their faith and their lives. This has been a week of profound sadness and loss, but Australians will also draw inspiration from this terrible loss.
Today we have also mourned the loss of nine Australian service men and women who died in the Sea Hawk helicopter from HMAS Kanimbla, four of whom came from HMAS Albatross, which is well known to Southern Highlands residents because it provides our catafalque party personnel at many of the Anzac Day ceremonies. I know that many Catholics in the Southern Highlands community are trying to come to grips not just with the loss of the leader of their faith but also with so many people who are known to families in the Southern Highlands.
On behalf of all residents of the Southern Highlands, I take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of those nine brave Australians we lost on Saturday. I think particularly of the children of the crew members, who will have the hardest time in the years ahead, but I hope that when they become aware of all that has been said about their fathers and family members in future years, they will be comforted to know that their immense loss, which can never be replaced, is in some way shared by each and every Australian, who salutes their courage, service and indomitable Australian spirit.
This is an extraordinary day. Two motions of condolence have been moved in this House; one for the Holy Father Pope John Paul II and the other for the nine brave Australians. I knew none of these people personally and my only experience of the Pope was during a visit to Rome some years ago when from a distance I watched him conduct an investiture of bishops at St Peter's Basilica. At that time I was struck by the enormous grace of this extraordinary man. I have listened tonight to the contributions of other members in the Chamber who had the fortune to meet him and whose lives he touched. We do know all these people, but in another sense. We know them by the lives they led publicly, the work they did, the greatness they achieved, and their humility and service. On behalf of all people in the Southern Highlands, I extend my condolences to all members of the Catholic faith, both in Australia and abroad, on their great loss.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN (Willoughby) [10.58 p.m.]: I express my deep condolences on the passing of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. His religious leadership extended beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church. He offered comfort and hope to all denominations and all religions. I have been moved by his personal story of hardship and the path he took to attain his position as Pope. His own struggles and the tragedies he witnessed during World War II undoubtedly had an enormous impact on what he was able to achieve in his leadership of the Catholic Church. In particular, I believe that history will remember his commitment to peace and his tolerance of other faiths—the ultimate belief that all of us who value faith and worship, irrespective of our denomination or even religion, share a common bond.
I was pleased to attend my local church service last Sunday, where the Primate of the Armenian Orthodox faith in Australia, His Eminence Archbishop Baliozian, expressed the deep respect that Australian Armenians—in fact, those of Armenian heritage all around the world—had for His Holiness. Australians of Armenian heritage are proud of the fact that in 301 AD, under the leadership of King Drtad, Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as the national religion. On the occasion of the 1,700th anniversary of that milestone in 2001, His Holiness Pope John Paul II made a special detailed address to the Armenian community around the globe, noting the historic occasion and providing a detailed acknowledgment of the strong links that exist between the Catholic Church and the Armenian community—the same compassion and empathy he has extended to all denominations and to other faiths. His leadership during some of the most turbulent times of the twentieth century, his commitment to the most poor and needy of the world, and his hope for peace and tolerance will leave a timeless legacy.
Mr DARYL MAGUIRE (Wagga Wagga) [11.02 p.m.]: I pay tribute to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, with whom I do not share the same faith. My grandmother always said that all religions head towards the top of a hill but we all take different paths. I admire the path taken by Pope John Paul II and the way in which he walked that path. Men and women in this world, through their actions and leadership, touch you, impress you and inspire you. Pope John Paul II inspired me. I have listened to the speeches made during this condolence debate, I have listened to the television media reports and I have reflected upon printed articles in the tabloids. Millions of people are making the pilgrimage to the Vatican to pay their respects to a great leader. I have been impressed by the way in which people from all walks of life and all faiths have recognised this man and the message of love, care and unification that he taught during the years he was the leader of the Catholic Church.
Previous speakers have referred to the many achievements of the Pope, who will be remembered as a champion of faith and love. However, I have been inspired by some of the things he did and the messages he gave to other faiths. I am sure that through his efforts with the leaders of those faiths we all understand each other far greater and have a greater tolerance than when he first came to lead the church, for which we have to give thanks. I am not one to express my faith or beliefs, although I have views on politics and religion. Through the Pope's work, politicians and people of all walks of life definitely have a greater understanding of all religions, whether it is Jewish people, Muslims or Anglicans. He inspired us to learn to understand, tolerate and work through spirituality.
Newspaper articles recognise some of the historical moments of the travels of Pope John Paul. He was, indeed, the widest travelled pope of our history. In fact, as God's politician he set the benchmark. The new pope, who will be chosen in a number of days, has a challenge to keep the work of Pope John Paul II in the eyes and minds of political leaders and the media worldwide and to continue to drive the message of peace, love and tolerance. I could not help but be touched by the genuine kindness and love shown by the Pope, as depicted in the pictures I have from the newspapers.
In one photograph the Pope shows love and care with the late Raisa Gorbachev, who I have ascertained from media articles was a gorgeous person. Other photographs show the Pope holding a baby with genuine love, and beautiful scenes and images of a man that really did care. Some people have charisma—I am sure many politicians wish they had some of his gifts to reach out to people. The beautiful images of the Pope reinforce the message that His Holiness was preaching to the people of the world. He was saying to the honourable member of Wallsend and me, and to people of different faiths, that we should have strength, work at broadening and enhancing friendships, understand other religions, be tolerant, care and love one another.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 11.07 p.m. until Thursday 7 April 2005 at 10.00 a.m.