Australian Embassy
Holy See

2017 Events

12 December 2017 – Showcasing Australian talent with a Christmas celebration at Domus Australia

The Australian Embassies to the Holy See and Italy were pleased to host a musical performance at Domus Australia on 12 December 2017 by St Catherine’s School and Cranbrook School.  The concert was the first of the Schools’ European Music Tour 2017, to be followed by others in Rome, the Vatican, Florence, Mestre, Bled and Vienna.  It involved 43 boys and 30 girls aged 13 to 17 and comprised a 73 voice Choir, 39 piece Wind Ensemble and 20 piece String Ensemble.  Invited guests – including members of the Diplomatic Corps, clergy, religious, seminarians, academia, NGOs, Australian communities in Rome and the Holy See, families and friends – were treated to a repertoire which included original Australian compositions and Christmas works.  All appreciated the talent, dedication and professionalism of the young musicians.  The Embassies wish them well for the rest of their tour, which has also been warmly welcomed by Australian Prime Minister The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP.

7 December 2017 - Promoting Australian Indigenous culture in the Vatican and beyond



The Australian Embassy to the Holy See welcomed the launch in Canberra on 7 December 2017 of the Australia Catalogue (Photo 1), a five-year collaboration between the Vatican Ethnological Museum, National Museum of Australia and Australian National University, supported by the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).   The inaugural resident Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, then HE Mr Tim Fischer AC, who has championed the Catalogue since 2009, attended, as did Professor Mick Dodson, Australian Editor Katherine Aigner, contributing author Senator Pat Dodson, CEO AIATSIS Craig Richie and Museum Director Fr Nicola Mapelli (Photo 4 L-R).  The Catalogue is one in the Museum’s series on indigenous culture across the world.  It details Australian Indigenous art and artefacts gifted to the Vatican from communities in New Norcia, the Kimberley region and the Tiwi Islands.  The Collection also includes works donated on the occasion of the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop, featuring a painting by Indigenous artist Yvonne O’Neill (Photo 2) and a Torres Strait Island headdress by Anson John Dorante (Photo 3).  Museum Director Fr Nicola Mapelli  and Ms Aigner travelled to Indigenous communities over several years, partnering with them to share their culture in a spirit of education and respect.  That objective has been achieved, with the 30,000 who visit the Vatican Museums every day now having the opportunity to experience Australian Indigenous art.   Having launched in the country of origin as a sign of respect, the launch in the Vatican will take place on 29 May 2018 during Reconciliation Week. 

20 November 2017 – Promoting Health and Wellbeing through Catholic Health Australia and the Australian Catholic University


Catholic Health Australia (CHA) CEO Suzanne Greenwood represented Australia, speaking at the 23rd Conference of the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions on Addressing Health Inequalities at the Vatican from 16-18 November 2017. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) offered a Health CEO Symposium at its Rome Campus from 19-21 November 2017. Partnering with both, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosted a reception on 20 November for CHA/ACU at which HE Melissa Hitchman, CEO Suzanne Greenwood (Photos 1 and 3) and ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Greg Craven AO GCSG (Photos 1 and 2) addressed guests from the Holy See, Australia, South Africa and the United States.  They noted Australia as an international best practice leader in health preparedness and response, antimicrobial resistance, universal coverage, health technology assessment and effective tobacco control. They also highlighted Australia’s contribution through its aid program to efforts to eliminate tuberculosis (TB), a major health security challenge in the Indo Pacific region.

10 November 2017 – Welcoming Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to Rome


The Australian Embassies to the Holy See and Italy, with support from the Australian High Commission in Fiji, co-hosted a welcome dinner for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders during their visit to Rome en route to the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in Bonn.  Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers and officials from Nauru, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, New Zealand, PNG and Australia were among the party, supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor DBE.  Leaders met Italian President Mattarella, His Holiness Pope Francis and the FAO.  See the President’s remarks, His Holiness’ statement and FAO outcomes, as well as interviews by the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, the President of Kiribati and Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa with Vatican Radio. COP23 is especially significant as a ‘Pacific COP’, with Fiji as the first Pacific island country to serve as COP President.  As a leading Pacific nation, Australia strongly supports Fiji’s overall objectives as President, which include bringing a ‘Pacific consciousness’ to the COP and delivering outcomes for the Pacific.

8 November 2017 – Welcoming the Holy See’s 12th female Head of Mission, Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich and Newt Gingrich

HE Melissa Hitchman and Dr Adrian Hitchman met Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich and Newt Gingrich on 8 November 2017, welcoming them to Rome.  Ambassador-designate Gingrich brings to 12 the number (or around 14 per cent) of resident female Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See congratulates Ms Gringrich on her appointment and wishes her well in her role.  We look forward to continuing our close collaboration on issues of mutual national interest, pursuing with the Holy See shared goals related to issues as diverse as combatting human trafficking and modern slavery, promoting peace and security, and broadening gender empowerment.

10 October 2017 - Considering Connectivity as a Human Right

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Foundation for World Wide Cooperation hosted a conference on Connectivity as a Human Right at the Vatican on 10 October 2017.  Speakers included former Italian President Romano Prodi, Professor Nicholas Negroponte, Professor Jeffrey Sachs and UN United Nations Undersecretary and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.  The Conference considered progress to realisation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9(c) on affordable access to IT by 2030, and other SDGs with connectivity elements such as SDG4 on education, SDG5 on gender equality, SDG7 on energy infrastructure and SDG17 on science and innovation.  Australia collaborates with the UN on all these SDGs, and looks forward to continuing to do so during its three year term on the Human Rights Council from 2018-2020.  Australia is the first representative from Oceania and welcomes the opportunity to represent the interests of the region.

3-6 October 2017 - Australia's eSafety Commissioner attends 'Child Dignity in the Digital World' Congress

Australia's eSafety Commissioner, Ms Julie Inman-Grant, is attending the Pontifical Gregorian University's 'Child Dignity in the Digital World Congress' from 3-6 October 2017 (please link).  Participants will explore research on the extent of child sexual abuse online and best practice solutions, taking a multidisciplinary approach involving academia, business, government and NGOs.  Ms Inman-Grant, (pictured on the right with HE Melissa Hitchman on the left and the UK's Rt Hon Baroness Joanna Shields, founder of WePROTECT, centre) will brief Australian religious and friends on 6 October on Conference outcomes and the work of her Office.  

28-29 September 2017 - Celebrating PNAC Diaconate Ordinations

HE Melissa Hitchman, spouse Dr Adrian Hitchman, Deputy Alison Edye and Embassy Public Diplomacy Officer Ms Madonna Noonan celebrated on 28 and 29 September 2017 with Reverend Deacon Matthew Meagher (Archdiocese of Sydney) his ordination to the diaconate at St Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of family and friends from Australia, followed by lunch at the Pontifical North American College, an evening reception and thanksgiving mass.  The Embassy congratulates Reverend Deacon Meagher on his ordination. 



6 July 2017 – Celebrating NAIDOC Week - Indigenous student wins Rome scholarship

Nathan Pitt is the inaugural winner of the Francis Xavier Conaci scholarship which will assist him to study at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Rome Centre this July as part of his International Core Curriculum studies at ACU’s Brisbane Campus.  Nathan is an Aboriginal student from Brisbane, with cultural connections to Yieman country.  The Francis Xavier Conaci Scholarship recognises the life of an Indigenous Australian youth who, in the mid 1850s, travelled from New Norcia in Western Australia to Rome to study in a Benedictine monastery. Sadly, Conaci died while there and is believed to be buried in Rome. His story continues to be discovered.  The scholarship gives contemporary meaning to Conaci’s journey by enabling an ACU Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student to study in Rome as Conaci himself did 164 years ago. ACU and the Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosted a ceremony during NAIDOC Week to acknowledge the scholarship. It has been awarded in an auspicious year. 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum in which Australians voted to amend the constitution to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for them. It is also the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision which rejected the concept of ‘Terra Nullius’.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See congratulates Nathan on this achievement and thanks ACU for its generosity in funding the Scholarship.  Further information is available here.

1 July 2017 – Strengthening Australia’s relationship with the Holy See through the Deputy Prime Minister's visit

 Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP visited the Holy See on 1 July 2017.  This was the first Ministerial visit by Australia since 2014.  Minister Joyce met Secretary of State His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin (photo) and President of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson.  He and Mrs Joyce toured the Australian Collection in the Vatican Ethnological Museum with Director Fr Nicola Mapelli, as well as the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.  Following representing Australia at the Food and Agriculture Organisation on 3 July, Minister Joyce interviewed with Vatican Radio.  He said the Holy See had a unique role and standing in international affairs, and it was important this relationship continued.  Discussions were wide-ranging.  They included Australia’s global moral responsibility to increase food production to alleviate world poverty by ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.   Their Eminences and Minister Joyce also focused on Australia’s commitment to meeting our international obligations to resettle refugees from the Middle East and Africa.  They exchanged views on the Holy See’s and Australian Government’s shared commitment to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Read Minister Joyce’s media release here.

23 June 2017 - Meeting Australian Christian Brothers in Rome

Australian Christian Brothers Julian McDonald, Peter Dowling and Kevin Callaghan welcomed HE Melissa Hitchman, Dr Adrian Hitchman, Deputy Alison Edye, Public Diplomacy Officer Madonna Noonan to their Generalate on 23 June 2017.  Drawn from the Oceania Province, the brothers are members of the Congregational Leadership Team and Procurator-General respectively.  The Embassy thanks them for their hospitality.


18 June 2017 - Australia hosting the Global Borrowers Forum

Australia's export credit agency, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) hosted international counterparts to the Global Borrowers Forum at the Australian Embassy to the Holy See on 18 June 2017.  Financial Information Authority President Dr Rene Bruelhart (pictured left with EFIC Treasurer Guy Morgan) addressed the Forum on Reform of the Vatican Finances, followed by Q&A.  


14 June 2017 - Celebrating ordination to the Diaconate

HE Melissa Hitchman, spouse Dr Adrian Hitchman and Embassy Public Diplomacy Officer Ms Madonna Noonan celebrated on 14 June 2017 with Reverend Deacons Brian Muling (Archdiocese of Melbourne) Brendan Gormley (Archdiocese of Brisbane) and John Lovell (Archdiocese of Maitland-Newcastle) their ordination to the deaconate at St Paul's Outside the Walls followed by lunch at Beda College.  The Embassy congratulates Rev Deacons Muling, and Lovell on their .  See Beda College for further information.

13 June 2017 - Hosting ACU History students

The Embassy hosted on 13 June 2017 over 30 Australian Catholic University history students and their lecturers visiting ACU's Rome Centre to a briefing on the Australia-Holy See relationship, followed by Q&A.  HE Melissa Hitchman outlined the history of bilateral relations, priorities in the relationship and the broad policy agenda.  Students expressed interest in Australian-Holy See efforts to combat human trafficking and modern slavery, manage the largest global people movements since WWII, and address climate change.  They explored the role of a diplomat and Embassy and sought advice on recruitment into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  The Embassy will host further ACU groups studying business, law, leadership, and international research until the end of July, as students take advantage of the Australian winter semester break.  See ACU's Rome Centre for further information.

10 June 2017 - Gathering of the ANZAC Group of religious and friends

Sister Helen of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (pictured with HE Melissa Hitchman) hosted on 10 June 2017 the final gathering of the ANZAC group of religious and friends before the northern summer.  The Embassy thanks the Congregation for its generous hospitality.  Register with the group through Convenor Sr Kerry Scanlon FMM at [email protected]



3 June 2017 - Meeting Australian Redemptorists in Rome

Australian Redemptorist moral theologian, author and lecturer Fr Terry Kennedy and the Redemptorist community welcomed HE Melissa Hitchman, Dr Adrian Hitchman and Deputy Alison Edye on 3 June 2017.  Fr Kennedy gave a tour of the Generalate, the Alphonsian Academy and the Church of St Alphonsus Ligouri, followed by a briefing on the history of the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in the Redemptorists' care.  The Embassy thanks Fr Kennedy and the Redemptorists for their hospitality.


24 May 2017 - Promoting SDG4 with Global Partnership for Education Board Chair The Hon Julia Gillard

Global Partnership for Education Board Chair and 27th Prime Minister of Australia The Hon Julia Gillard visited Rome on 24 May 2017 in preparation for the GPE Replenishment Conference later this year.  Ms Gillard met His Holiness Pope Francis, Secretary for Relations with States HE Archbishop Paul Gallagher and was guest of honour at a lunch also attended by the Congregation for Education Undersecretary Fr Frederich Bechina and ACU Managing Director and Sant'Egidio Director for Special Operations Dr Claudio Betti.  


16 May 2017 - Celebrating Australian Indigenous Artist Deborah Cheetham and accompanist Ms Toni Lalich

In the year of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum and 25th year of Mabo, the Australian Embassies to the Holy See and Italy celebrated with a visit by Australian Indigenous opera singer, composer, playwright and actor Ms Deborah Cheetham and accompanist Ms Toni Lalich.  Ms Cheetham and Ms Lalich paid their respects at the Vatican Ethnological Museum's Australia Collection, were the guests of honour at a lunch attended by the Pontifical Council for Culture and Australian religious, and performed Indigenous Dreamtime compositions and Italian Opera for families and unaccompanied minors at the Jesuit Refugee Centre welcoming facility Centro Pedro Arrupe.  

1-6 May 2017 - Welcoming 300 Australian Pharmacists to Rome

The Australian Embassies to the Holy See and Italy welcomed 300 pharmacists to Rome for the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's (PSA's) annual Offshore Refresher Conference from 2-6 May 2017.  HE Melissa Hitchman addressed remarks to the opening plenary of the Conference on the Australia-Holy See bilateral relationship before introducing Dr Maria-Christina Carlo-Stella (pictured centre), head of the Fabbrica responsible for management of St Peter's Basilica and Tomb, as the keynote speaker.  Members of the PSA later toured the Vatican Museums, Basilica and Pharmacy, the latter led for 50 years until 2016 by Australian St John of God Brother Fabian.  The week concluded with a reception at the Official Residence to the Holy See.  The Embassy thanks Mr Warwick Plunkett (pictured right) for his collaboration in ensuring the series of events was a success.

25 April 2017 - Commemorating ANZAC Day 2017

On 25 April 2017, Australians, New Zealanders, Turkish, Italians and many others gathered at the Rome War Cemetery (pictured), maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to pay their respects at a ceremony led by New Zealand on the 102nd anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli and, later, at a commemorative mass, followed by a reception at Domus Australia.  Further information on ANZAC Day is available here.



8 April 2017 - Gathering of the ANZAC community in Rome 

In the company of over thirty others, the Australian Embassy's Madonna Noonan (left) practiced lamington diplomacy with Carol Antram da Rin (centre) and Sr Vivienne Goldstein SM (right) at the monthly ANZAC gathering of religious and friends at the Official Residence of the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See on 8 April 2017.




3 April 2017 - Australian representatives attend briefing on the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development

With HE Melissa Hitchman (Australian Ambassador to the Holy See), Australian representatives Sr Mary Leahy RSJ (Regional Coordinator Apostolate of the Sea Archdiocese of Sydney, on the left) and Professor Anne Cummins (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Australian Catholic University, on the right) met with His Eminence Cardinal Peter K A Turkson (Prefect for the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, centre) during a briefing on the genesis and perspectives of the Dicastery and 50th Anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Popularum Progresso on 3 April 2017 at the Vatican.

29-30 March 2017 - Attending the Global Heads of Mission Meeting and briefing future Ambassadors at St Clare’s College Canberra?


HE Melissa Hitchman – pictured in photo 1 with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and colleagues – attended the Global Heads of Mission Meeting (GHOMM) on 27-29 March 2017.  Heads of Mission contributed to the formulation of the Foreign Policy White Paper due for release later this year.  The Meeting also marked the thirtieth anniversary of the amalgamation of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Following GHOMM, Ambassador Hitchman visited St Clare’s College on 30 March 2017 and spoke to senior students on the theme 'St Clare's to St Peter's'.  She discussed cooperation between the Australian Embassy and the Holy See on issues such as human trafficking and modern slavery, indigenous and gender empowerment, climate change, the sustainable development goals, and freedom of belief.  Following the briefing, she met St Clare’s College Captain Megan Phipps pictured in photo 2 far left, Year 12 (photo 2) and Year 7 (photo 3) St Clare's College students.  Reconnecting with her alma mater on the thirtieth anniversary of her acceptance into the diplomatic service, Ambassador Hitchman hopes her journey may inspire students to consider a career in diplomacy.  Perhaps a future Ambassador among those pictured?

22 March 2017 - Welcoming the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

On 22 March 2017 HE Melissa Hitchman welcomed members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Mr Francis Sullivan, for a luncheon briefing ahead of the PCPM's meetings at the Holy See over subsequent days. Clockwise: Baroness Sheila Hollins, Mr Francis Sullivan, Australian Commissioner Ms Kathleen McCormack AM, British Embassy to the Holy See Deputy Head of Mission Mr Steve Townsend, New Zealand Commissioner Mr Bill Kilgallon, Commission Secretary Monsignor Robert Oliver, Pontifical Gregorian University Vice-Rector and Centre for Child Protection President Fr Hans Zollner and Ambassador Hitchman. Both Australians presented to the Commission.

8 March 2017 - International Women's Day - # BeBoldforChange

On the occasion of the 106th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the Australian Embassies to the Holy See and to Italy hosted a seminar in which women shared their experiences of being bold in their chosen field.  The Embassies invited a panel of three guest speakers:  Pontifical Gregorian University Centre for Child Protection Executive Director Prof Dr Karlijn Demasure (right) presented on the protection of minors, relevant to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  International Union of Superiors General (UISG) Executive Secretary Sr Patricia Murray ibvm (centre) addressed development in conflict zones, where many of the UISG’s sisters work, Australians among them.  Project Futures’ Founder Ms Stephanie Lorenzo (left) spoke of her own and Australia’s broader efforts to end Human Trafficking and Slavery.  Both Ambassadors commented on their own respective experiences as a woman in leadership and a male champion for change.  The seminar included a robust Q&A.  Around 100 women and men attended, drawn from both Diplomatic Corps, the Curia and Italian government, the Australian religious and lay communities, international organisations and local media.  Guests also enjoyed an opportunity for networking and further dialogue at the morning tea following the seminar.

5 February 2017 - Australian seminarians studying at the North American College


HE Melissa Hitchman, Dr Adrian Hitchman and family, accompanied by Deputy Alison Edye, were hosted by Australian seminarians at the Pontifical North American College for mass, brunch and a tour of the college on 5 February 2017.

3 February 2017 - We welcome PNG's first Cardinal

His Eminence Sir John Cardinal Ribat MSC KBE, Papua New Guinea's first Cardinal (second from left), visited the Australian Residence on 3 February 2017. He was accompanied by Australians Fr Ben Fleming MSC (Vicar-General of Port Morseby, left) and Fr Tony Arthur MSC (Secretary General), as well as Fr Mark McDonald (MSC Superior General) and the Holy See's Monsignor Seamus Horgan (Secretariat of State, right).


27 January 2017 - Meeting Australian FMMs in Rome

Australian Provincial Superior Sr Linda Price FMM briefed HE Melissa Hitchman at the Franciscan Missionary of Mary Mother House on 27 January 2017. She and fellow Australians Sr Narelle Skeers FMM, a member of the FMM General Council, and Sr Kerry Scanlon FMM welcomed the Ambassador, accompanied by Dr Adrian Hitchman and Deputy Ms Alison Edye. The Australian Embassy to the Holy See thanks Sr Scanlon FMM for her work as the Contact Person of the ANZAC Group of Australian and New Zealand religious.  For further information or to register your interest in the ANZAC Group, contact Sr Kerry Scanlon at [email protected]

26 January 2017 - Celebrating Australia Day with the Curia, the Corps & the Community


Domus Australia and the Australian Embassy to the Holy See welcomed a record number of guests on 26 January 2017 to celebrate Australia's National Day. Among those present were Undersecretary for Relations with States (Deputy Foreign Minister equivalent) Monsignor Antoine Camilleri (photo 1 right), Chief of Protocol Monsignor José Bettencourt (photo 1 left), Australian Catholic University's Dr Doseena Fergie (photo 2) and Guglielmo Marconi's daughter, Princess Elettra Marconi, with Domus Australia's Rector Fr Terry Bell (photo 3).

21 January 2017 - Australian mature-age vocations studying at Beda College

Canon Philip Gillespie, Rector of Beda College, welcomed HE Melissa Hitchman, Dr Adrian Hitchman and Deputy Alison Edye for the Prayer for Christian Unity, followed by dinner, on 21 January 2017. The embassy guests enjoyed the company of the five Australian mature-age seminarians currently studying at Beda, together with their international co-students.



19 January 2017 - Collaborating with the Corps

HE Melissa Hitchman met HE Jonghyu Jeong Dr.iur., Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the  Holy See, on 19 January 2017 to discuss advancing mutual interests in Holy See relations, including through the Greater Asian Group of Ambassadors, chaired by HE Mehmet Paҫaci, Ambassador of Turkey to the Holy See.



10 January 2017 - Australia and the Holy See partnering for the protection of minors

The Pontifical Gregorian University's Academic Vice Rector Fr Hans Zollner SJ and Director of the Centre for Child Protection (CCP) Professor Karlijn Demasure hosted HE Melissa Hitchman and Deputy Alison Edye on 10 January 2017.  Fr Zollner, who is also President of the CCP, visited Australia in 2016, briefing Australian policy makers and abuse survivors on the Centre's work on child protection.  Accompanied by the Australian representative on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Kathleen McCormack AM, Fr Zollner also advised stakeholders of the Commission's work.

9 January 2017 - Attending the annual Papal Address to the Diplomatic Corps

His Holiness Pope Francis addressed the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See on 9 January 2017 on priorities for the year ahead: the theme was Peace and Security.

HE Melissa Hitchman, accompanied by Dr Adrian Hitchman and Deputy Alison Edye, arrived together with HE Janet Lowe, Ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See, non-resident from The Hague, who was in Rome for the occasion.

Ambassador Hitchman's Vatican Radio interview on the Papal Address is available here