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Welcome to Ambassador Chiara Porro
Hello to all and welcome to the Australian Embassy to the Holy See’s website.
I am pleased to have been appointed Australia’s next Ambassador to the Holy See, the fourth resident Ambassador since the position was established in 2008. I look forward to presenting my credentials to His Holiness Pope Francis on 27 August 2020, and officially taking up my role as the representative of the Australian Government to the Holy See.
It goes without saying that I will be assuming my functions at a turbulent time, with the world still reeling from a devastating pandemic. Now, more than ever, supporting those in need is of critical importance, a key priority that Australia and the Holy See share. Australia has already taken a number of steps, including pivoting our development assistance through our new Partnerships for Recovery. Reinforcing global institutions will also be key, including to advance Australia and the Holy See’s broader shared agenda on human rights, conflict resolution and peace building.
As the only resident Ambassador from the Pacific, I hope to be able to give our region another voice in the Vatican. The Pacific is our neighbourhood, our family, and Australia is leading efforts to address our region’s key challenges, including on health security and climate change. Our Church Partnerships Program recognises the central role the Church plays in the Pacific (where over 90 per cent of the population identifies as Christian), and supports their capacity to contribute to regional development and community resilience.
During my mandate, we will be celebrating 50 years of Australia-Holy See diplomatic relations – an important milestone, built on the very strong and robust people to people links we share. Over five million Australians identify as Catholics, and our committed lay and religious community is making a difference both in Rome and at home. This year we will also celebrate the tenth year anniversary of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first canonised Saint and a remarkable woman who encapsulates the true spirit of Australia.
Like my predecessors, my mission to the Holy See is to represent modern Australia – our vibrant democracy, indigenous heritage, and multicultural society (30 per cent of Australians are born overseas). I will be doing so as a young woman from a culturally and linguistically diverse background – I was born in Italy, moved with my family to Australia at the age of three, and spent time living in Indonesia growing up. I hope to draw on my experiences to shape the image of Australia and advance our shared priorities with the Holy See.
I will be using both this website and our new Twitter account @ausambholysee to keep you all updated on our work and share snapshots of life as an Ambassador to the Holy See. Stay tuned!
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17 October 2020 – 10th anniversary of Mary MacKillop’s canonisation
St Mary of the Cross MacKillop was canonised in Rome on 17 October 2010, becoming Australia’s first canonised Saint. It was an unforgettable day in St Peter’s square, full of people, her followers and wellwishers from around the world. Her story is a remarkable one, which resonates even more today. From her courage and perserverance in the face of adversity, to her care and dedication to those on the margins of society, she fought the stereotype of a ‘proper sister’, focusing instead on where her efforts were most needed, and using education to fight poverty. She was not afraid to speak out, and stand for her convictions. Mary, we hope your story will continue to inspire generations in the years ahead. We have prepared this short video to mark the occasion – watch it in full here - https://youtu.be/FeXTTeWLpqI
27 August 2020 – Commemorating Mary MacKillop and Indigenous Australia while presenting Credentials to HH Pope Francis
On 27 August 2020, HE Ambassador Chiara Porro was pleased and honoured to meet His Holiness Pope Francis when she presented her Letters of Credence. Ambassador Porro took advantage of the occasion to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the canonisation of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, who was canonised as Australia’s first Catholic Saint on 17 October 2010. Ambassador Porro presented His Holiness with a relic of St Mary MacKillop, a small piece of one of the habits that St Mary wore. The Ambassador also celebrated Australia’s Indigenous culture by presenting Pope Francis with a book of poetry from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth entitled ‘Homeland Calling’.
9 December - Farewell to Ambassador Melissa Hitchman
On 9 December 2019 the Australian Embassy to the Holy See bid farewell to HE Ambassador Melissa Hitchman at the conclusion of her mission to the Holy See and warmly welcomed Mr Matthew Wise as Chargé d’affaires ad interim. Mr Wise is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was most recently Chargé d’affaires in Nigeria and Consul-General in Chicago, prior to which he served in the Foreign Minister’s Office. He has worked on North Asia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and counter-terrorism and consular policy. Prior to joining the foreign service, Mr Wise worked at the Office of National Assessments and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, primarily on intelligence and security issues. Mr Wise holds tertiary qualifications in Political Science, Law and Economics.
13 September - Renewing links with Australia’s First Peoples
Ambassador Melissa Hitchman travelled to the Tiwi Islands on Friday, 13 September to renew links with 2017 Senior Australian of the Year Sr Anne Gardiner AM OLSH, artists Pedro Wonaeamirri and Carol Puruntatameri, and other friends of the Embassy. Last year, Ambassador Hitchman invited Sr Anne to deliver a speech on International Women’s Day on Mentoring Indigenous women into positions of leadership: my experience in a cross cultural context. Also last year, Mr Wonaeamirri and Ms Puruntatameri travelled to Rome to attend the launch during Reconciliation Week of the Australia Catalogue documenting Australia’s Indigenous culture and history and co-published by the Vatican Museums and AIATSIS. Ambassador Hitchman visited Murrupurtiyanuwu Catholic Primary School (MCPS) and Xavier Catholic College Wurrumiyanga, the Council, Red Cross, Patakijiyali Museum, and St Thérèse’s Catholic Church on Bathurst Island. Despite the 13,000km between the Embassy and the Northern Territory, links are warm and strong. Photo: MCPS students, after a welcome to country and smoking ceremony.
12 September 2019 - Contributing to SDG3 with the Northern Territory Government, Catholic and Indigenous Partners
On a visit to the Northern Territory to renew links between the Australian Embassy to the Holy See and regional stakeholders, Ambassador Melissa Hitchman joined with State, Catholic and Indigenous agencies to launch a free Toiletry Bag Program in the Top End on 12 September 2019. The bags are available for those who find themselves away from home unexpectedly without access to their usual toiletry supplies. This includes Indigenous Australians who travel from their communities to attend medical centres, survivors of domestic violence, or the homeless. The bags are generously provided by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) in partnership with the St Vincent de Paul Society. Other Catholic agencies which provide frontline services to those at risk, such as Caritas NT and CatholicCare NT, support the initiative. The Catholic Diocese of Darwin is championing all. The Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) and Palmerston Regional Hospital are facilitating the Program by taking delivery of, and storing, supplies of the bags. Ambassador Hitchman commented on the goodwill of all involved in bringing the grassroots initiative established elsewhere in Australia to the Territory for the most vulnerable. The Program is an example of Australia’s international and domestic diplomacy converging to promote the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 3: ‘To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Image left to right: CatholicCare NT A/g CEO Judy Davis; Caritas NT Council Member Sean Parnell OAM; RDH Social Work Manager John Edwards; Australia Day Council NT Chair Jeannette Button, Ambassador Hitchman; RDH Co Director of Nursing in the Women, Children and Youth Services Division Maureen Brittin; CatholicCare NT Sr Leone Wittmack RSC; RDH Indigenous Liaison Office Manager Gail Madrill; RDH Chaplain David Hucker; and RDH Chaplain Deacon Rev Tony Cunningham.
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See
9-11 September 2019 - Setting out Diplomatic Priorities
The Commonwealth Government brought all Australian Ambassadors home to set out its priorities and vision for the diplomatic network this parliamentary term. Ambassadors met from 9-11 September in Canberra and heard from the Prime Minister and Ministers. They assessed how the world is changing and what it means for Australians, including in the period since the release of the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper. Ambassadors then travelled across the country to meet Australians, explain the purpose of the diplomatic network and ask what it can do to serve Australia. Ambassador Hitchman is one of several Ambassadors to visit the Northern Territory and the only one to visit the Tiwi Islands. Ambassador Hitchman thanks Australia Day Council NT Chair Jeannette Button and Executive Director Anna McDonald for generously coordinating her NT program.
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See
22 August 2019 – Honouring Former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See The Hon Tim Fischer AC
Vale The Honourable Tim Fischer AC (1946-2019), former Ambassador to the Holy See (2009-2012), who died of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) on 22 August 2019. Universally respected, Mr Fischer led a rich life which he shared generously with all who knew him. In his final hours, His Holiness Pope Francis awarded Mr Fischer the Order of St Gregory the Great, advice of which Mr Fischer became aware. He received many other honours, including Australia’s highest – the Companion of Australia – in 2005 for his service to the Federal and New South Wales Parliaments and for fostering openness of cultural difference in the community. He served as a conscripted Vietnam army veteran, state and federal parliamentarian including Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister, Chair of Tourism Australia, Ambassador to the Holy See, and Chair of the Crops Trust Executive Management Board, among many other roles. He was a prolific author, penning nine books, including Holy See, Unholy Me: A Thousand Days in Rome. He remained a generous and engaged interlocutor of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, the Curia, and stakeholders in Rome. The Embassy has opened a condolence book for signature at the Embassy during the hours 10am-4pm from 22-29 August 2019. A memorial service for Mr Fischer will be held at Domus Australia, Via Cernaia 14/B, at 9am on Sunday 22 September 2019, with principal celebrant Holy See Secretary for Relations with States HE Archbishop Paul Gallagher and Australian priests, followed by morning tea. All are welcome to attend, with prior registration to [email protected]. For entry, please bring photo ID for security purposes. An official photographer will record the service – if you do not wish your image used, please advise in writing to [email protected]. All enquiries to [email protected] or +39 06 686 261 . Mr Fischer is survived by his wife, Judy Brewer-Fischer, and their sons Harrison and Dominic. Embassy colleagues extend their heartfelt condolences to the Brewer-Fischer family.
20 July 2019 - Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing
It’s been nearly 50 years since the world watched as #Apollo11 landed on the Moon! Australia helped share those famous images via the @NASA Honeysuckle Creek station and @CSIROnews Parkes radio telescope. 50 years after the #Apollo11 Moon landing, Australia continues to help @NASA @esa and others explore the Universe through tracking spacecraft, observing Earth from above, radio astronomy, and more. More at www.csiro.au/apollo11 @CanberraDSN #Apollo50Aus #Apollo50th
Image courtesy of CSIRO
8 July 2019 – Welcoming ACU’s third Indigenous “Conaci Scholar” to Rome during NAIDOC Week
The Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosted a ceremony during NAIDOC Week to announce the third ACU Francis Xavier Conaci Scholar, Ms Calle Nicholls. Around 100 guests attended. A second year Bachelor of Social Work student at ACU’s Canberra Campus, Calle is an Aboriginal student and proud Wiradjuri woman, who says she finds herself connected with her tribe and nation’s culture. After graduation, she aims to work in regional or rural Australia with Indigenous populations, in particular incarcerated youth. Calle follows in the footsteps of an Indigenous Australian after whom the Scholarship is named. In 1848 Francis Xavier Conaci travelled from New Norcia in Western Australia to study with the Benedictines in Italy. Sadly, he died in 1853 and is believed to be buried in Rome. The Scholarship gives contemporary meaning to Conaci’s journey by enabling an ACU Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student to study in Rome as he himself did 170 years ago. Calle undertook a familiarisation program in Rome for the Scholarship. She paid her respects to Conaci, connecting with his spirituality through Australian Benedictines Abbot General Michael Kelly OSB in Rome and Abbot John Herbert OSB from New Norcia. She also interviewed with Vatican News about what opportunities the Scholarship offers to her, her promotion of Indigenous rights, and His Holiness Pope Francis’ global leadership. ACU Director of the First Peoples and Equity Pathways Jane Ceolin was pleased the award was being presented during NAIDOC Week, with the 2019 theme Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let’s work together for a shared future. Abbot Herbert gifted Calle with books on the ancient language and heritage of Conaci’s community. The Australian Embassy to the Holy See gifted her with the Australia Catalogue co-published by the Vatican Museums and AIATSIS which showcases Australian Indigenous history. We congratulate Calle on her achievement and thank ACU for its generosity in funding the Scholarship.
28 June 2019 – Celebrating the Ad Limina of the Australian Bishops in Rome
On Friday 28 June 2019 Ambassador Hitchman hosted a reception to farewell Australian Catholic Bishops who were in Rome to attend the Ad Limina visit of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) from 23-29 June 2019. An Ad Limina visit is an obligatory periodic reunion within the Holy See of a nation’s Catholic Bishops. Its purpose is to visit the Tomb of St Peter and meet with his successor as the elected head of the Holy See, His Holiness the Pope; review with Curial officials the state of the national Church and its dioceses; and plan for the future. The last Ad Limina of the ACBC was November 2011. Ambassador Hitchman thanked the ACBC for its collaboration on implementation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse, Modern Slavery Act, and Freedom of Belief Review among many key issues in the Australia-Holy See bilateral relationship. ACBC President and Archbishop of Brisbane HE Mark Coleridge remarked on the productive week with stakeholders inside and outside the Holy See, reflected on ACBC priorities, and looked forward to the bishops continuing to listen to the Australian Catholic Church through the 2020 Plenary Council.
29 May 2019 – Celebrating Reconciliation Week with the Australian Catholic University
Reconciliation Week celebrates Australian Indigenous culture: the oldest continuing culture in the world, at over 60,000 years. Held annually from 27 May to 3 June, the Week marks two critical moments in Australian history. At the 27 May 1967 referendum, non-Indigenous Australians voted overwhelmingly to alter the Australian Constitution to allow the Australian Government to make laws for Indigenous Australians and include them in the census. On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia ruled on the rights of Indigenous Australians to native title or historic ownership of the Australian continent. We thus observe the Week, recognising its crucial importance in fostering positive efforts toward further reconciliation. This year’s theme is Grounded in Truth; Walk Together with Courage. The Australian Embassy to the Holy See was delighted to host a reception with the Australian Catholic University (ACU) during Reconciliation Week in honour of ACU’s Global Governance Roundtable. Ambassador Melissa Hitchman welcomed guests, ACU Provost Professor Pauline Nugent outlined ACU’s governance principles, and ACU’s Weemala Indigenous Higher Education Unit Coordinator, Wakka Wakka woman Kate Wragge briefed on ACU’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
Images courtesy of Reconciliation Australia and the Australian Catholic University
23 May 2019 – Welcoming the New Zealand Maori King's visit to His Holiness Pope Francis
On 23 May 2019 HE Melissa Hitchman – in collaboration with the New Zealand Ambassadors to the Holy See and Italy – hosted a lunch to welcome Maori King HM Kingii Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero Te Tuawhitu, Royal Consort HR Makau Ariki Atawhai and delegation to the Holy See. Members of the delegation meet His Holiness Pope Francis in a private audience on Saturday 25 May. As the only Pacific nation with a resident Ambassador to the Holy See, the event reaffirmed Australia's commitment as a Pacific partner. It followed the Ambassador’s welcome dinner for Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders, as they travelled to the Climate Change Convention Conference of the Parties (COP)23 in Bonn in November 2017 to support Fiji as the first Pacific COP President. It also showcased Australian-Holy See collaboration on Indigenous issues. The Vatican Anima Mundi Museum expects to release its Oceania Catalogue in 2019. The publication is a companion to the Australia Catalogue launched by the Vatican Museums and AIATSIS in Australia in 2017 and in the Vatican Museums during Reconciliation Week in 2018. These and other Anima Mundi Catalogues highlight the Holy See’s global promotion of Indigenous history and culture, of which Australia’s is the oldest continuous example globally: some 60,000 years.
Photo 1 from L to R: Australian Embassy to the Holy See Deputy Head of Mission Alison Edye, Lady Tureiti Moxon, New Zealand Ambassador to the Holy See HE Nigel Ffye, HR Makau Ariki Atawhai, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Cyprus Ambassador to the Holy See HE George Poulides, HM Kingii Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero Te Tuawhitu, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See HE Melissa Hitchman, Archdeacon Ngire Simmons, former Anglican Centre Director HE Archbishop Sir David Moxon, His Majesty’s daughter HRH Puhi Ariki Ngawai
Photo 2 from L to R: Australian Embassy to the Holy See Deputy Head of Mission Alison Edye, HR Makau Ariki Atawhai, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Cyprus Ambassador to the Holy See HE George Poulides, New Zealand Ambassador to Italy HE Anthony Simpson, HM Kingii Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero Te Tuawhitu, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See HE Melissa Hitchman, former Anglican Centre Director HE Archbishop Sir David Moxon, Archdeacon Ngire Simmons, Lady Tureiti Moxon, His Majesty’s daughter HRH Puhi Ariki Ngawai
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, 2019. Photographer David Dodd
25 April 2019 – Remembering ANZAC Day
The New Zealand Embassy to Italy hosted the commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Rome (pictured) on 25 April 2019 of the 104th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) during World War I. Australians (including colleagues and families of the Australian Embassies to Italy and the Holy See), New Zealanders, Turks, Italian and others gathered to pay their respects to those who lost their lives. Ambassadors and military representatives laid wreaths in their memory. The choir of Baulkham Hills High School, Australia provided pre-service music. A reading was performed by Sacred Heart Girls’ College Hamilton in New Zealand. The New Zealand Embassy held a morning tea following the service. Domus Australia Rector Monsignor John Boyle hosted an evening remembrance mass with principal celebrant Pontifical Council for Culture Secretary HE Archbishop Paul Tighe, concelebrated by Australian clergy. Australian, New Zealand, Turkish, Italian and other diplomatic representatives and diaspora attended. A welcome reception followed mass. See here for further information on ANZAC Day.
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, 2019. Photographer Lawrence Copson
12 April 2019 – Marking Futures Week, the eve of UN World Creativity and Innovation Week (#WCIW), and the 90th anniversary of the founding of Vatican Radio
What do the 90th anniversary this year of the founding of Vatican Radio, the first remotely operated switch in the world, Genoa Harbour and the Sydney Town Hall have in common? ‘The Steve Jobs of his day’: Gugliemo Marconi. He participated in all. The Australian-produced film Elettra tells his story through his daughter. To mark the first-ever Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Futures Week from 8-12 April and on the eve of UN World Creativity and Innovation Week (#WCIW) from 15-21 April commencing on Leonardo Da Vinci’s birthday, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See held a private viewing of the film on 12 April 2019. The Embassy thanks co-producer Ben Starr, Managing Director of the Marconi School of Wireless, Sydney, for permission to do so. The Ambassador and colleagues from both the Australian Embassy to the Holy See and Australian Embassy to Italy were privileged to welcome Princess Elettra Marconi to join us in conversation. The film journeys through Marconi’s life. It relates Marconi’s experimentation, commercialisation and application of invention to technology we take for granted today. It tells of the invitation from His Holiness Pope Pius XI to establish Vatican Radio negotiated through the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy in 1929. It explains how sufficient power was generated to operate a switch remotely for the first time, and allow Marconi to turn on the lights of the Sydney Town Hall from his yacht, Elettra, moored in Genoa Harbour Italy on 27 March 1930. Australia played its part in world creativity and innovation 89 years ago. It continues to do so in fields as diverse as genome sequencing, supercomputing, anatomics and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope.
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, 2019
21 March 2019 – Commemorating National Close the Gap Day and Harmony Day Australia and UNESCO’s Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Each year since the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, Australian governments at the federal, state and territory level have worked together to deliver better health, education and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Termed Closing the Gap, this cooperation aims to eliminate the inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Each year the Prime Minster delivers a Closing the Gap Statement in Parliament and tables a report on progress made. These are available on the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) website. 2019’s National Close the Gap Day coincides with the 20th anniversary of Australia’s Harmony Day, which celebrates Australian multiculturalism based on the successful integration of migrants into our communities. Both Australia’s National Closing the Gap Day and Harmony Day are closely aligned with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, of which the 2019 theme is ‘Mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies.’ #FightRacism
Images courtesy of the Australian Human Rights Commission, 2019; Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2019; Australian Parliament House, 2019
8 March 2019 – Celebrating International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually around the world to highlight the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Originating in 1910, it was not until 1945 that the UN Charter became the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men, and not until 1975 that IWD was first celebrated on this date during International Women’s Year. By 1995 the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, signed by 189 states, focused on 12 areas of concern, envisioning a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, generating an income, and living free from violence and discrimination. More than twenty years on, Australia remains engaged in this work, through the Sustainable Development Goals, Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the G20, and our Human Rights Council term from 2018-2020. We work every day to promote the exercise by women and girls of their freedoms, choices, and rights. Indeed, this builds on our history as a pioneer for gender equality. Australia was the first nation to grant women the dual rights to vote and stand for parliament, in 1902. Other political, economic and social rights followed. Australia’s only saint is a woman: Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, who successfully challenged her excommunication by her local bishop, journeyed the 16,000km to Rome to put her case to then-Pope Pius IX directly, and obtained papal approval for her Institute. Another Australian, the redoubtable Rosemary Goldie, was the first woman to hold an executive appointment in the Roman Curia, as Undersecretary of the-then Pontifical Council for the Laity, in 1967. IWD is an opportunity to motivate our friends, families, colleagues, neighbourhoods, nation-states and the international community to think, act and be gender inclusive. This year the Australian Embassies to the Holy See and Italy are honoured to have heard from Ms Geraldine Doogue AO, one of our nation's most respected journalists. Ms Doogue has over 40 years’ experience in print, television and radio domestically and as a foreign correspondent. In recognition of her contributions, she has been awarded a United Nations Media Peace Prize for her coverage of the first Gulf War, two Penguin Awards for excellence in broadcasting, a Churchill Fellowship (2000) and an Order of Australia (2003) for distinguished service to the Australian community and media on issues involving ethics, values, religion and social change. Ms Doogue’s discourse, ‘It Takes a Village: a Story of Belonging,’ offered insights through her own journey into how institutions promote values such as integrity, accountability and respect.
25 February 2019 – Honouring Former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See Dr John Herron AO
Vale The Honourable Dr John Herron AO (1932-2019), former Ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See (2002-2006), who died on 25 February 2019. Dr Herron was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2012 for distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia, international relations through diplomatic and humanitarian roles, professional medical associations, and the community. A Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs from 1996-2001, he served as a Senator for Queensland from 1990-2002. Dr Herron retained an interest in Australia-Holy See relations into his retirement, attending the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s Banyo seminary address with current Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, HE Melissa Hitchman, on 14 April 2018.
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, 2019
20 February 2019 - Supporting the Protection of Minors in the Church
On 20 February 2019 the Embassies to the Holy See of Australia, Chile, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom, representing each continent, co-hosted an event to demonstrate support for the Holy See’s Meeting for the Protection of Minors in the Church from 21-24 February 2019. An historic initiative of His Holiness Pope Francis, in his determination to combat the sexual abuse of minors within the Church, the Meeting drew Presidents of Bishops Conferences and Congregational Leaders from across the globe to listen to survivors’ testimonies, review Holy See policies, and reflect on the way forward. In the words of Fr Hans Zollner SJ, one of the Meeting’s organisers, a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, President of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection, this will require the utmost responsibility, accountability and transparency. The Australian Government will continue to offer lessons learned from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to the Holy See as we partner to safeguard minors and vulnerable adults.
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, 2019. Photographer Kathrin Ziegler
14 February 2019 - Showcasing Australian Artwork by Niké Arrighi Borghese
The Australian Embassy to the Holy See is delighted to showcase the talent of Australian-Italo artist Niké Arrighi Borghese. Principessa Arrighi Borghese lived in Sydney with her Italian father, Ernesto Arrighi (Consul prior to World War II), Australian mother Eleanora Douglas Cox (prima ballerina and leading model for 1930s dress designer Schiaparelli) and sister Luciana, attending Ascham and the Sacred Heart convent school Kincoppal, then at Elizabeth Bay. After a career as a model (Balenciaga and Nina Ricci) actress (The Devil Rides Out and Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River) and artist, Ms Arrighi married Prince Paolo Borghese. Life in Hong Kong with art exhibitions and daughter Flavia followed. Principessa Arrighi Borghese continues to create art, exhibit around the world, and teach at the Academy of International Arts in Rome. She recalls ‘I have memories of being free, sometimes barefoot, going to the beach. I love Australia. I had this happy childhood and that is forever’. Of her etching/aquafort in blue The View, hung in the Australian Embassy to the Holy See on 14 February 2019, Principessa Arrighi Borghese commented ‘Today…is an honourable day for me, artist of this picture…to be hung in the Embassy of Australia to the Holy See, in Rome, a ‘bit’ of Australia in Italy! This was my view as a child in Vaucluse, Sydney. When I returned one day I was visiting my dear next door neighbour, Diana Hilton Cowlishaw, and there in front of me was my View, so exciting to see it again but with skyscrapers and the famous Opera House! I couldn't move, I sat in front of it and drew, sketched and here is the result in blue. The slats of the venetian blind help the mystery of memory. In gratitude to HE Melissa Hitchman, Ambassador of Australia to the Holy See.’
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, 2019. Photographer David Dodd
13 February 2019 - Recalling National Apology Day
The National Apology to the Stolen Generations was the fulfilment of a recommendation from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s (HREOC) 1997 National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal Children from their Families. The Apology, delivered in the Australian Parliament by then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008, highlighted the suffering of Indigenous families under previous Commonwealth, state and territory Aboriginal protection and welfare laws and policies. In the words of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner Mick Gooda, the “Australian Government formally apologised to our First Peoples and said sorry for the injustice inflicted on the Stolen Generations… It was a profound moment that stirred within many of us mixed emotions of both sadness and grief, but also hope and relief.” Ambassador Hitchman and her family – then 15, 12 and 3 – attended the National Apology in 2008 on the lawns of the Australian Parliament in Canberra as a commitment to reconciliation with Australia’s Indigenous community.
Image courtesy of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2019
9 February 2019 - Thanking the ANZACs
One of the unique features of the Australian and New Zealand diaspora in Rome is a group of religious and friends affectionately known as ‘the ANZAC group’ or ‘ANZACs’. The term originates from the acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (1914-1918), when both nations forged bonds of friendship at Gallipoli during World War I in the early years of our respective sovereignty. In Rome, the ANZAC group meets monthly to exchange views on issues of mutual interest between congregations. On Saturday 9 February 2019 Ambassador and Dr Hitchman hosted an afternoon tea for the ANZAC group, led by the current convenor Sister Kerry Scanlon fmm, with around 30 members present, some of whom have lived in Rome for decades and one who had just arrived for a working visit a few days prior. Sr Judith Moore SMSM, a New Zealand citizen member of the Marist Missionary Sisters, thanked the Ambassador for her support of the group during the years of her mandate and wished her well for future endeavours beyond 2019.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia, 2019
8 February 2019 – Commemorating the International Day of Prayer and Awareness on Human Trafficking
As Australia’s Modern Slavery Act took effect on 1 January 2019, the Embassy was particularly pleased to commemorate the International Day of Prayer and Awareness on Human Trafficking on 8 February 2019. His Holiness Pope Francis has chosen the Feast Day of Saint Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who became a Catholic Saint, to draw global attention to the ‘open wound on the body of contemporary society’ that is human trafficking today. Ambassador Melissa Hitchman and Deputy Head of Mission Alison Edye met on 7 February 2019 with Sr Colleen Jackson, member of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) and Oceania representative for Talitha Kum, the Catholic international network of anti-human trafficking groups. Both Ambassador Hitchman and Ms Edye further marked the day by attending the ‘Together Against Human Trafficking’ Prayer Service organised by Talitha Kum and the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development’s Migrants and Refugees Office.
Image courtesy of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, 2019
17 January 2019 – Welcoming Australia Day early at Domus Australia
The Australian Embassy to the Holy See and Domus Australia Rector Monsignor John Boyle and his team welcomed a record 170 guests on 17 January 2019 to our West of the Divide Wind and Vocal Ensembles concert and reception for an early Australia Day celebration. Congratulations to the 72 students from 39 schools, supported by 19 teachers, 8 music tutors and 45 family and friends on tour. The fourth of its kind, the Ensembles this year will visit Rome, Florence, Venice, Bled and Zagreb. Students are performing, receiving workshops and visiting school throughout the tour. Among those present at the Australia Day reception was Undersecretary for Relations with States (Deputy Foreign Minister equivalent) Monsignor Antoine Camilleri. The event was also attended by a delegation of Australian Catholic University (ACU) students and their academics, who are in Rome to further their studies. The Embassy and guests were honoured to have one of the ACU students, representing Indigenous Australians, read an Aboriginal Prayer during the event. Let us know if you wish to be added to our mailing list for future events.
7 January 2019 – Partnering with the Holy See on Foreign Policy
On 7 January 2019 Ambassador HE Ms Melissa Hitchman and Deputy Head of Mission Ms Alison Edye attended His Holiness Pope Francis’ annual address to the Diplomatic Corps, in which he set out his foreign policy agenda for the following twelve months. Based on this, the Embassy will be advising the Australian Government where we can further our mutual interests with the Holy See, building on the priorities outlined in our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.
1 January 2019 – Promoting World Peace Day
Were you in St Peter’s Square for His Holiness Pope Francis’ annual New Year’s Day, or World Peace Day, message yesterday? Or perhaps you watched it online via Vatican News, or via one of the 39 languages broadcast to 60 or more countries around the world by Vatican Radio? You may be interested in exploring how Australia leads on peace and security and the responsibility to protect (R2P) throughout the world.
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