ACU celebrates the Centenary of Apostolic Representation in Australia

Published: Wednesday 26th November 2014

Australian Catholic University (ACU) is celebrating the Centenary of Papal Representation in Australia with events in Sydney and Canberra from 22-28 November. 

The Vatican's foreign minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti and the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia Archbishop Paul Gallagher, former Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See Anne Leahy, and Archbishop Denis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne and President of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference, are among the dignitaries commemorating the event with ACU Chancellor John Fahey, Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven, and members of the ACU Senate, Chapter and staff, as well as representatives of Catholic health, education and social services groups. 

ACU held an Academic Act to commemorate the occasion, and has conferred its highest honour, Doctor of the University (honoris causa), on Archbishop Mamberti at a ceremony at the Mary MacKillop North Sydney Campus on Monday 24 November.  This campus was the site of the former Apostolic Nuncio’s official residence in Australia up until the early 1970s.

Archbishop Gallagher gave a speech of welcome, and Archbishop Mamberti delivered a key policy statement, “On the Occasion of the Commemoration of the Centenary of Papal Representation in Australasia”. 

Formal events will be held in Canberra between the Nunciature and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and will include a visit to the Signadou Canberra Campus on 28 November. 

Mr Fahey said ACU was honoured to be hosting Archbishop Mamberti for this significant commemoration of the Centenary of Papal Representation in Australia. 

“The University stands within the long tradition of Catholic contributions to education and to the common good which have been hallmarks of the Vatican’s diplomatic agenda for over a century in Australia and for many centuries internationally,” Mr Fahey said.  

“The University has a particular connection with the Holy See’s Diplomatic initiatives since the building which now houses the University’s Vice-Chancellery was, until 1973, the Holy See’s delegation in Australia.  In this capacity it served as the base for the 1970 Visit to Australia by Blessed Pope Paul VI.” 

In marking this commemoration with a significant Academic Act, ACU highlights its ongoing connection with and commitment to the Church’s mission to promote the common good and the dignity of all persons which have for so long characterised the efforts of the Diplomatic Service and, indeed, the Church’s educational endeavours.

Moroccan-born Archbishop Mamberti and Englishman Archbishop Gallagher represent two of the most senior members of the Holy See with their recent nominations for the positions of Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and Secretary for Relations with States respectively. 

Ties between Australia and the Holy See have strengthened considerably over the 100 years since the first Papal Delegate arrived in Sydney in 1914. Full diplomatic relations were established in 1973, with the first Nunciature in Canberra, a role that up until now, was held by Archbishop Gallagher. Over the last century, these formal connections have extended to include dialogue on a wide range of areas including human rights, political and religious freedom, interfaith dialogue, food security, arms control, refugees and anti-people trafficking, and climate change. 

Australia has played host to four papal visits – Pope Paul VI in 1970, and Pope St John Paul II in 1986 and again in 1995 – and Sydney was the venue for World Youth Day in 2008, when more than 1 million people from an estimated 200 countries joined with Pope Benedict XVI for a week long festival of faith. ACU is the largest Catholic University in the English-speaking world.