In what was hailed as the first public interfaith gathering in Australia, leaders of 12 Christian denominations and the Muslim and Jewish communities last week welcomed Pope John Paul II at an open-air ceremony here before some 30,000 people.
The Pope was in Australia to beatify Mary MacKillop, a pioneer of social welfare and education services in that country.
Mother Mary MacKillop, who will become Australia’s first Catholic saint, had a close and warm connection with the Adelaide Jewish community. Her beatification has been greeted positively by Australian Jews.
He told his audience of Christians, Muslims and Jews that Australia was “blessed” with harmony between the many groups that comprise its population.
The speeches and presentations concentrated on common concerns regarding morality and the need for people to act with compassion.
Despite concerns about the health of the leader of the world’s Catholics, the Pope engaged each of the representatives of the religious groups in lively conversation. He climbed onto the stage unattended.
After his formal welcome, the pope warned the crowd of the evils of “ethnic rivalries and racist attitudes.”
He urged “respect for the inalienable dignity of every human being without exception.”