The Bishop of Parramatta, Vincent Long OFM Conv, has discussed the global refugee crisis with Pope Francis over a meal, according to an article in his diocesan paper, reports The Tablet.
“I spoke to his Holiness about a few things close to my heart,” he told the paper. “I introduced myself to him as Bishop of Parramatta and a former boat person. I raised the issue of asylum-seekers in Australia and our government’s harsh offshore detention policy.
"The Holy Father commended the way Italy handles the asylum-seeker crisis and grieved over the cold-heartedness with which some other countries act towards them.”
Bishop Long also spoke to the Pope about the opposition both from within the Church and elsewhere in respect of his leadership on issues such as climate change, the person-centred economy, and concern for the marginalised.
“His simple answer and his gesture left a deep impression on me: 'I seek to be authentic.' Pope Francis made me feel completely at home and without fear,” Bishop Long said. “When he asked me if I wanted wine and then poured it into my glass, it was as though the Servant Jesus came to life for me there and then. It was a privileged moment and an unforgettable experience. I thank God for it.”
Bishop Long welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's announcement at the UN summit on refugees last month that Australia will raise its humanitarian intake from mid-2018 from 14,000 to 18,750. But he said Australia's “harsh” policy of offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru betrayed its long tradition of welcoming and resettling refugees.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, told an online conference in Sydney that the time of Christendom is over, and the Church must recognise its “real credential” is in mercy.
“When I speak about the covenant of God, it is a community of Mercy in a merciless world. Find the hungry one, the thirsty one, the naked one, the sick one, the one who is infinitely strange, and the one who is seemingly imprisoned by the power of death. Look at the Crucified and understand what you see,” Archbishop Coleridge said.