Australian Catholic artists create a gift of mercy

Published: Thursday 13th October 2016

Inspired by Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a group of Australian Catholic artists has collaborated to create a performance piece entitled The Faces of Mercy.

The Faces of Mercy combines music by composer George Palmer, a collection of poetry by Kevin Brophy, a triptych of artwork by Niké Arrighi Borghese, and additional text based on the writings of Pope Francis and the psalms by Professor Clare Johnson in collaboration with the production’s director/producer Michael Campbell.

Former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See Mr John McCarthy QC KCSG initiated The Faces of Mercy project and chairs the project committee.

“Years of Jubilee have, over the centuries, inspired sacred works in various forms from the talents and visions of artists. I became determined to witness a reflection of the great notion of God’s mercy in the work of exceptionally accomplished and talented Australians,” Mr McCarthy said.

The theme of mercy resounds throughout the preaching, prayer and prose of Pope Francis. The Faces of Mercy employs texts and ideas drawn from the Pope’s writings and proclamations on mercy and echoes his call to contemplate the mystery of mercy, to hope for mercy and to act with mercy.

Describing the ideas explored in The Faces of Mercy, Professor Johnson, the Director of Australian Catholic University’s Centre for Liturgy, said: “In his words and through his deeds, the Holy Father continually challenges the world to recognise strength in weakness, to find hope in the face of despair, and to be open both to receiving mercy and offering it to others. The Faces of Mercy explores these key themes creatively through music, poetry and art.”

Australian Catholic University, the Archdiocese of Sydney and Catholic Super have joined forces to co-sponsor The Faces of Mercy.

ACU Vice Chancellor and President Professor Greg Craven said the performance was a fitting example of collaboration to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. “The Catholic Church has a centuries-long patronage of the arts. The collection of works is a tremendous embodiment of this tradition,” Professor Craven said.

The Faces of Mercy will be performed on October 23 at 3pm at St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney and on November 17 at Domus Australia (Rome).

The event is open to the public but seating is limited. Staff can register to attend while seats are available by emailing by 20 October, 2016.

Performers include soprano Amelia Farrugia, poet Kevin Brophy, a clarinet and string quartet featuring soloists of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (Francesco Celata, Timothy Nankervis, Sandro Constantino and Andrew Haveron), and organ and choir from St. Mary's Cathedral.

Notes from the artists
Niké Arrighi Borghese characterises the process of painting her triptych as: “My ‘Agony and Ecstasy,’ as I experienced both… I became the hand that held the brush, the tears that bathed those suffering”.

Through his poetry Kevin Brophy says he has tried to “evoke a journey through chaos towards hope and finally to those acts of forgiveness that are so mysterious and profound in us.”

Composer George Palmer says he “tried to weave around the images and words, music which allows them to speak with heightened intensity, of the journey that is possible for all of us: the journey from conflict and darkness, to pardon, through understanding of our own weaknesses, and finally to hope that we can live together in mutual tolerance, respect and generosity.”

Event details
What: The Faces of Mercy
When: Sunday 23 October 2016, 3pm
Where: The Crypt, St. Mary’s Cathedral
Register to attend: by 20 October, 2016