Australian Embassy
Holy See

2018 Events

18 December 2018 – Embracing International Migrants Day

Happy International Migrants Day.  Did you know nearly one in two of our 25 million Australians was born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas?  Australia continues to welcome people from every corner of the globe: up to 190,000 move to our shores permanently every year.  We are also one of the most generous refugee resettlement countries globally, consistently among the top three per capita: we have increased our humanitarian program to 18.750 places for 2018-19.  In recent years, Australia has consistently been one of the top five donors to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).  Australian is a nation built on migration.  The Australian economy – now in its 27th year of continuous economic growth – has outperformed every other OECD economy partly as a result of the skills migrants have brought with them.  We have a long and successful history of well-managed migration.  We pride ourselves on our non-discriminatory programs, which do not differentiate on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin, gender or colour. 

15 December 2018 – Marking the First Anniversary of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

For many in our community, the first anniversary on 15 December 2018 of the tabling in parliament by the Australian Government of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was a challenging one.  Much has been achieved; there remains much to do.  The longest running Royal Commission in Australia’s history resulted in the Australian Government’s Response on 13 June 2018, introduction of the Commonwealth Redress Scheme on 1 July 2018, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia response on 31 August 2018, and a National Apology by the Prime Minister on 22 October 2018 to all affected by such abuse.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See is grateful for the research, policy proposals and advocacy in this field by President of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Vice-Rector Academic of the University, member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and lead of the Organising Committee for the Presidents of Bishops Conferences from 21-24 February 2019, Fr Hans Zollner SJ.  Fr Zollner visited Australia in 2016 and 2018, meeting with survivors, clergy, religious, policymakers and law enforcers.  In response to his appointment last month, Fr Zollner said ‘the Holy Father has convoked the meeting in February – an unprecedented decision – precisely because he is aware that the protection of minors is a fundamental priority for the Church, for its mission, and not only for its credibility’.  We have offered our support for a successful gathering which produces cultural change, transparency, accountability, and justice and healing.

11 December 2018 – Celebrating Human Rights Day

The Australian Embassy to the Holy See celebrated the 70th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 on 10 December 2018.  This year’s #HumanRightsDay marked the end of the 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence campaign. Australia is reaffirming human rights around the world as a member of the Human Rights Council from 2018-2020.  Deputy Head of Mission Alison Edye celebrated the day by attending a conference held by the Pontifical Gregorian University and Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development on ‘Human Rights in a Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations’.

25 November- 10 December - 16 Days of Activisim against Gender-Based Violence

From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, International Human Rights Day, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See is marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.  The campaign raises awareness and galvanises action to end violence against women and girls.  The campaign is marked by the United Nations, governments and civil society organisations and the private sector around the world.  Addressing violence against women requires a multifaceted approach, including prevention, treatment and strengthening legal responses nationally and internationally.  Subjecting women and girls to violence, limiting their choices, restricting their movements, and excluding their voices from decision-making is not only a human rights abuse, but leads to poor social and economic outcomes for everyone.  Eliminating violence against women and girls everywhere is a priority for the Australian Government through its foreign policy, economic diplomacy and aid program.  Over the past decade, Australia's development programs have invested more than $300 million in overseas programs to prevent gender-based violence and provide support to survivors.  In this context, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See welcomes His Holiness Pope Francis’ meeting in February 2018 with Presidents of all Bishops Conferences to develop a clear path forward towards the implementation of a zero tolerance policy to sexual abuse by the Catholic Church.  President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults, and Archbishop for Boston, His Eminence Cardinal O’Malley this week called the meeting ‘a critical moment for the universal Church’ in which the ‘support and pastoral care of survivors’ is the first priority’ and ‘requires a partnership between the laity and clergy in responding to the failures of episcopal leadership by holding bishops accountable for the crimes against children and vulnerable adults’.  President of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Vice-Rector Academic of the University, and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors Fr Hans Zollner SJ is the contact for the Organising Committee.  Fr Zollner visited Australia in 2016 and 2018, meeting with survivors, clergy, religious, policymakers and law enforcers.  In response to his appointment, he said ‘the Holy Father has convoked the meeting in February – an unprecedented decision – precisely because he is aware that the protection of minors is a fundamental priority for the Church, for its mission, and not only for its credibility’. In Rome, HE Melissa Hitchman attended the Voices of Faith “Overcoming Silence - Women’s Voices in the Abuse Crisis” on 27 November 2018 and listened to the moving and powerful testimonies of survivors, practitioners and policymakers in this field. The Australian Embassy to the Holy See also welcomed the statement issued on 23 November 2018 by the International Union of Superiors General – which represents over 500,000 religious sisters worldwide – denouncing sexual abuse within the Church, urging sisters to report these crimes to superiors and local authorities and vowing to assist them in seeking justice and healing for themselves and others.The Embassy congratulates survivors for finding their voice, and those advocating for justice, reconciliation and healing.

27 November 2018 – Supporting the Missionaries of Charity at Christmas with their ministry to those in need in Rome

The Australian Embassy to the Holy See is delighted once again to support the Missionaries of Charity (MCs, founded by St Teresa of Kolkata) in providing assistance to the homeless and marginalised in Rome this Christmas, particularly through their outreach at San Gregorio al Celio, between the Colosseum and Circus Maximus, where they have been based since 1970.  The MCs, which St Teresa founded, are active in Australia, providing services to women and children in crisis, indigenous communities and the disadvantaged.  In 1982 then Mother Teresa was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.  On her death in 1997, then Governor-General Sir William Deane wrote a message of condolence on behalf of all Australians.  The Embassy is pleased to contribute to those in need during what is a bleak festive season for many and hopes its offerings may bring some joy.

9 and 11 November 2018 – Commemorating the Centenary of the Armistice

HE Melissa Hitchman, Dr Adrian Hitchman and guests attended a ceremony to commemorate the Centenary of the Armistice at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Rome on 9 November 2018, and at All Saints Anglican Church on 11 November 2018.  Methodist Centre Director Rev Tim Macquiban led the first service, with contributions by Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Buddhist and Muslim faith leaders.  Ambassadors and Defence Attachés representing combatant countries of World War I laid wreaths to honour those who sacrificed their lives, their families and their communities for peace.  Visiting Australians Raymond Tait and friends (pictured with Ambassador Hitchman) paid their respects on behalf of their families who had served in wartime, wearing their family medals.  All Saints Rector Rev John Kilgore MD led the second service, with contributions from the Australian and British Embassies to the Holy See and Italy.  Deputy Head of Mission Alison Edye processed in with the Australian flag, Ambassador Hitchman read a lesson and laid a wreath, and those attending sampled ANZAC biscuits afterwards in the Australian custom.  As the Australian War Memorial records, World War I remains the costliest conflict in Australian history in terms of deaths and casualties.  From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.  Those losses cast a shadow over the postwar decades.  As for every year since, a minute’s silence has been observed around the world marking the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when, on 11 November 2018 the Armistice was signed to end World War I.

8 November 2018 – Celebrating the Australian String Quartet

HE Melissa Hitchman attended a performance by the Australian String Quartet (ASQ) under the auspices of Il Tempietto at Sala Baldini in Piazza Campitelli, supported by the Australian Embassy to Italy, on 8 November 2018.  The program featured music by Mendelssohn (Quartetto n. 6 in Fa Minore Op 80), Vine (Quartetto n. 3 “Smith’s alchemy“) and Mozart (Quartetto in Re Maggiore KV 575 ‘‘Prussiano n. 1“), as well as encore compositions by Sculthorpe and Puccini.  For over 30 years, the ASQ has created string quartet performances for national and international audiences.  From its base at the University of Adelaide, Elder Conservatorium of Music, the ASQ engages audiences throughout Australia and the world with a program of performances, workshops, commissions and education projects.  Its enhances its distinctly Australian sound by a matched set of 18th century Guadagnini instruments, handcrafted by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini between c.1743 and 1784 in Turin and Piacenza, Italy.  These precious instruments are on loan for the ASQ’s exclusive use through the generosity of UKARIA Cultural Centre in the Adelaide Hills.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See congratulates the Quartet on its 2018 tour of Italy.

29 October 2018 – Promoting Women in Leadership

The International Union of Superiors General (UISG) briefed their members and Ambassadors to the Holy See on the Holy See’s 3-28 October 2018 Synod on Youth by livestream on 29 October 2018.  In particular, the UISG highlighted the inclusion of women in the Synod, their embrace by other Synod members, and their positive contribution to Synod outcomes.  HE Melissa Hitchman attended the briefing, reflecting on gender equality as the first of five pillars supporting Australia’s Human Rights Council term from 2018-2020.

27 October 2018 – Recognising Australian Mathematics Excellence

With an IQ higher than Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, Australian Ivan Zelich (pictured with his mother and friend Liberty Curtis) received the Giuseppe Sciaaca International Prize for Research and Development at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Vatican City on 27  October 2018.  At age 17, Mr Zelich met US-based fellow teenager Xumin Liang online and together developed a ground-breaking mathematical theorem which could pave new insights into the structure of the universe.  The principal application of the Liang Zelich Theorem is to understand structures in geometry which relate to the mathematics of the universe.  When the pair published their theorem, Generalisations of the Neuberg cubic to the Euler pencil of isopivotal cubics, in the International Journal of Geometry in Vol. 4 (2015), No. 2, 5 - 25, they became the youngest contributors in the Journal’s history.  Zelich is also a swimming state champion, speaks six languages, has represented Queensland in chess and has a Licentiate in Music on piano.  The Giuseppe Sciacca Prize for Research and Development is sponsored by the Italian Senate, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Ministry of Defence and Defence Industries Agency; Hellenic Republic’s Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism; Giuseppe Sciacca Foundation; Giuseppe Sciacca School of Orthopedic Tutors; Cyprus Olympic Committee; Maria Grazia Balducci Rossi Foundation; ISGESI Man and Society Association; S. Michele Arcangelo Catholic Cultural Youth Centre; and Democritus University of Thrace International Center for Excellence in Emergency Medicine.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See congratulates Mr Zelich on his award.

25 October 2018 – Partnering through MIKTA

The Embassies to the Holy See of Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia welcomed over 100 guests to the Pontifical Urbaniana University on 25 October 2018 to a Conference on Transnational Crime, followed by a (M)IKTA Lunch.  Speakers addressed efforts to combat terrorism (Indonesia), cybercrime (Korea), religious extremism (Turkey) and human trafficking (Australia).  Australia’s Detective Superintendent Andrea Humphrys APM, Senior Liaison International Operations AFP The Hague, represented Australia.  Guests were drawn from the Curia, diplomatic corps, academia, NGO community, media and diaspora.  MIKTA is a cross-regional, informal, soft-power mechanism led by foreign ministers focused on broad issues.  It connects five countries whose influence and economic weight is substantial, particularly within their own regions.  MIKTA accounts for around eight percent of the global economy and eight percent of the world’s population.  As noted on p81 of the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Australia values MIKTA as a flexible forum for achieving multilateral and bilateral outcomes in Australia’s interests.

17 October 2018 – Working towards peace on the Korean Peninsula

On 16 October 2018 Ambassador Hitchman attended a mass for peace on the Korean Peninsula celebrated by Holy See Secretary of State His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin at St Peter’s Basilica in honour of the President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea.  His Holiness Pope Francis received President Moon Jae-in on 18 October 2018 and conveyed interest from the President of Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea of a visit by His Holiness.  Vatican News reports that Cardinal Parolin has stated His Holiness is open to such an invitation, which could ‘give support to the process of peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’.  Australia seeks to build a mature economic relationship with the Republic of Korea – our fourth-largest trading partner – by enhancing cooperation on political, defence and security issues.  Australia and the Republic of Korea share an interest in working with the United States and Japan to protect regional security.  Any major instability or conflict on the Korean Peninsula would have severe strategic, economic and humanitarian repercussions.  Further advice on Australia’s policy is available on pp42-43 of the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.

15 October 2018 – Honouring the 75th International Holocaust Remembrance

On 15 October 2018 Ambassador Hitchman attended the Centre for High Defence Studies in Rome to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the deportation of Roman Jewish citizens.  After attendees listened to the names of deportees, Noemi Di Segni (President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities) introduced Piero Terracina (survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau).  Other speakers included Nando Tagliacozzo (family of deportees), Ruth Dureghello (President of the Jewish Community of Rome), Rav Riccardo Di Segni (Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Rome), HE Archbishop Santo Marcianò (Military Ordinary for Italy), Michael Jonas (Pastor of the Lutheran Evangelical Community of Rome), HE Oren David (Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See) and General Massimiliano Del Casale (President of CASD).  The Hal Kol Chorus sang movingly, the video ‘How Much More Memory’ was screened, and the memorial plaque (pictured) unveiled.  Ambassador Hitchman represented Australia as a liaison member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).  Headquartered in Berlin, IHRA unites governments and experts to strengthen, advance and promote Holocaust education, research and remembrance.  It has 31 member states and cooperates closely with seven other intergovernmental bodies which have Holocaust-related issues as part of their mandate: the UN, UNESCO, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the International Tracing Service, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Council of Europe and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.  Australia's delegation to IHRA plenary meetings is led by our Ambassador to Germany.  Pending approvals, Australia hopes to become a full member of IHRA at the plenary meeting in Luxembourg in June 2019.

14 October 2018 – Celebrating the canonizations of Oscar Romero and others with a link to Australia

On 14 October 2018 Oscar Romero Catholic Primary School Craigieburn West, Vic celebrated as its namesake was canonized by His Holiness Pope Francis at St Peter’s Square.  Ambassador and Dr Hitchman represented Australia at the mass for Paul VI, Oscar Romero, Francesco Spinelli, Vincenzo Romana,Maria Caterina Kasper, Nazaria Ignazia Di Santa Teresa Di Grau March Mesa and Nunzio Sulprizio, along with 80,000 pilgrims.  Colleagues at the Australian Embassy to the Holy See send warm wishes to the community of St Oscar Romero Catholic Primary School in Craigieburn West, Vic, who continued the celebrations with the local Salvadoran community on 16 October 2018.

13 October 2018 – Recognising Caritas Internationalis as a partner for Australia

Following his visit to Australia from 5-7 October 2018 where he spoke with Minister for International Development and the Pacific Senator the Hon Anne Ruston after attending Caritas Oceania’s conference in New Zealand, and on the eve of Oscar Romero’s canonization, Ambassador Hitchman joined Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Michel Roy in recognising Fr Romero’s association with the Confederation.  Archbishop of Manila His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle celebrated mass, after which testimonies were given by those who had worked with both His Holiness Pope Paul VI and Fr Romero.  The Caritas Internationalis Confederation is one of the world’s largest humanitarian networks with over 165 member agencies working in more than 200 countries and territories.  Each member is autonomous in its governance and is responsible to its local Catholic Bishops Conference.  Caritas Australia – the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency in Australia - joined Caritas Internationalis in 1971.  It is also a member of Caritas Oceania, the Pacific Region network of the Confederation.  It is a fully accredited Australian NGO under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and has been accredited since 1994.  In 2017-18, Caritas Australia received $7, 844,107 in Australian Aid program funding.   It supported 2 million people through its 93 long-term programs, with 108 partnerships in 27 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific, and with Australia’s First Peoples and 32 emergency programs in 24 countries.  The Australian Government values Caritas Australia as a major partner in both development and humanitarian responses globally.  

30 September 2018 – Welcoming Catholic Women Speak to promote Visions and Vocations

On 30 September 2018 Ambassador Hitchman welcomed the international Catholic Women Speak (CWS) network to a reception on the eve of the launch of their latest work: Visions and Vocations. The collection of essays – including Australian authors – was timed for release with the commencement of the 2018 Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. It offers theological reflections and more personal narratives on the Synod’s themes, written by contributors from across the globe, most of whom were present at the event. The Ambassador addressed guests, affirming the Australian Government’s commitment to gender equality as a pillar of our Human Rights Council term from 2018-2020 and our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.  CWS Coordinator Roehampton Professor of Catholic Studies Tina Beattie followed, exhorting women to create an informed and honest space for dialogue around issues relevant to the lives of Catholic women in the Church and society. Ambassador Hitchman attended the CWS symposium focused on the role of women in the church and in the world, leadership and social transformation, the contribution of the disabled, power/abuse/sexuality, cultural expressions of Catholicism, seminaries and priestly formation, women religious, the call to ordination, and Laudato Si.  Ambassador Hitchman purchased copies of Visions and Vocations for members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Australian Embassy collection.

19 September 2018 – Celebrating the Australian Girls Choir at the Papal Audience and Domus Australia

The Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosted a performance of the Australian Girls Choir at the Chapel of St Peter Chanel at Domus Australia on 19 September 2018.  Rector Monsignor John Boyle welcomed over 70 guests drawn from the diplomatic corps and expatriate communities.  Under the direction of 2018 Tour leaders Jana Muldoon and Clare Wever, the Choir sang I am, You are, We are Australian and My Island Home among other pieces, following a performance the same day at the Papal Audience. The Choir commenced its three week tour in Rome, with appearances to follow in Marostica, Venice, Vienna, Graz and Hong Kong.  The tour follows successful ones to Rome in 2006, 2009 and 2012 and 2016.  The Choir was established over thirty years ago in Melbourne and now numbers over 5,000 young women learning to sing, dance and perform in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.  Not only does the Choir empower young women throughout Australia, it also contributes philanthropically.  Girls from Oz (G-Oz) provides performing arts education programs to those unable to access them for economic or geographic reasons, such as in remote Halls Creek and Carnarvon in WA.  Choir members are also Youth Ambassadors for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, raising money for research into the prevention, detection and treatment of this disease.  Several Choir associates fund scholarships in recognition of young talent. 

16-25 September 2018 – Promoting Interreligious Dialogue in Australia

Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn HE Christopher Prowse hosted the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) Secretary HE Bishop Ayuso Giuxot, Undersecretary Monsignor Kodithuwakku, Fr Markus Solo and Monsignor Santiago Michael to Australia from 16-25 September 2018 (see earlier entry below): His Excellency and the delegation are pictured here at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. 




11 September 2018 – Collaborating on Education and Health with the Australian Catholic University

On 11 September, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See hosted a welcome reception for the Australian Catholic University’s (ACU’s) Education and Health Symposia being held at ACU’s Rome Campus from 9-12 September and 11-14 September respectively.  HE Melissa Hitchman welcomed ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven AO, other ACU academic colleagues, and delegates from the ACT, NSW, QLD, SA, Tasmania, VIC, WA, Scotland and New York to her Official Residence.  She thanked ACU for its contribution to education and health outcomes not only in Australia but globally, as the world’s largest publicly-funded Catholic university.  She noted His Holiness Pope Francis’ statement of support for the Global Fund for Education’s (GPE’s) Replenishment Conference co-hosted by France and Senegal in February 2018, applauding the GPE’s investment in assisting 72 more million children attend school since 2003.  Australia is a generous donor member, contributing AUD90 million from 2018-2020.  Ambassador Hitchman said she was also delighted Australia was recognised as an international best practice leader in health preparedness and response, antimicrobial resistance, universal coverage, health technology assessment and effective tobacco control.  Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, for example, committed a further $220 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has saved 20 million lives since 2002, and Australia is co-hosting with France at the UN General Assembly in New York next week the Tobacco-free Finance Pledge.

11 September 2018 –  Farewelling the Council for Interreligious Dialogue prior to its visit to Australia

On 11 September HE Melissa Hitchman and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) Secretary HE Bishop Ayuso Giuxot, Fr Markus Solo and Monsignor Santiago Michael – with regrets from fourth delegation member Undersecretary Monsignor Kodithuwakku – briefed each other ahead of the PCID’s visit to Australia from 16-25 September 2018.  The delegation will visit Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.  Reflecting Australia’s rich expression of faith, delegation members will meet with Australian Indigenous, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, and Catholic representatives.  Ambassador Hitchman briefed on Australia’s Human Rights Council term from 2018-2020 (in which freedom of belief is a priority under the freedom of expression pillar), Australia’s membership with the Holy See of the International Contact Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the ongoing Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s Human Rights sub-committee Inquiry into Freedom of Religion or Belief and Ruddock Religious Freedom Review.  Bishop Giuxot briefed on the Council’s body of work, including its respect for Indigenous spirituality, guidance to episcopal conferences to develop guidelines for interreligious dialogue, and participation in conferences in the Asia-Pacific region such as Singapore’s hosting of a Taoist exchange in October 2018.  Ambassador Hitchman presented Bishop Giuxot with Australia, co-published by the Vatican Museums and Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in 2017 and launched during Reconciliation Week in May 2018.  The Catalogue documents the oldest continuing civilization on earth: Australia’s 60,000 years of Indigenous history and culture.

6 September 2018 - Welcoming the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

On 6 September 2018 HE Melissa Hitchman hosted members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), including President His Eminence Cardinal Sean O’Malley O.F.M. Cap, for a reception briefing ahead of the PCPM’s plenary at the Holy See.  Ambassador Hitchman was particularly pleased to welcome new Australian Commissioner and former President of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Justice Neville Owen.  All gathered were interested in the reflections of German Commissioner, Vice Rector at the Gregorian University Fr Hans Zollner SJ, who returned the same day from a visit to Australia, where he addressed several dioceses and conferences on the work of the Commission and on the University’s Centre for Child Protection, of which he is the President.

23 July 2018 – Reaffirming Australia-Holy See Collaboration on the Sustainable Development Goals with a Ministerial Visit

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells visited the Holy See on 23 July.  She met with Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy to discuss Australia-Holy See collaboration towards realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, or Agenda 2030.  The Caritas Internationalis Confederation is one of the world’s largest humanitarian networks, with over 165 member agencies working in more than 200 countries and territories.  Caritas Australia, a member of Caritas Internationalis, is a fully accredited Australian Non-Government Organisation (NGO) under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and has been accredited since 1994.  In 2018-19, the Australian Government is funding Caritas Australia by $7,844,107.  Minister Fierravanti-Wells and Secretary General Roy discussed shared projects in the Pacific, such as combatting domestic violence, where Australia is stepping up its engagement under the Foreign Policy White Paper released in November 2017.  The Minister briefed on Australia’s promotion of social responsibility by corporates in the extractive industry, opportunities under the Pacific Labour Scheme and Australia’s commitment to meeting its Paris Agreement reduction of emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 by 2020.  She thanked the Holy See for His Holiness Pope Francis’ audience with Pacific Island Forum Leaders in November 2017 en route to the 23rd UN Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change and his statement of support for Fiji’s Presidency.  The Minister and Secretary General considered the legal status of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) around small island states facing extinction due to global warming, melting icecaps and rising sea levels.  They also exchanged views on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh, including the response of the region and international community.  The Minister’s visit followed the recent successful visit of the Governor-General of Australia Their Excellencies General The Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) and Lady Cosgrove.

11 July 2018 – Welcoming ACU’s second Indigenous “Conaci Scholar” to Rome during NAIDOC Week

The Australian Catholic University (ACU), Australian Embassy to the Holy See and Australian Embassy to Italy hosted a ceremony during NAIDOC Week to announce the second Francis Xavier Conaci Scholar, Kate Gavin. Around 100 guests attended. A nursing student from Noosa studying at ACU’s Brisbane Campus, Kate traces her heritage to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Two generations of her family belong to the Stolen Generations.  They inspired her by reconnecting with their people and country decades after separation to rebuild their lives. Kate follows in the footsteps of the Indigenous Australian youth after whom the Scholarship is named.  In 1848 Francis Xavier Conaci travelled from New Norcia, also 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 165 years ago.  Kate undertook a familiarisation program in Rome for the Scholarship, paying 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, and giving media interviews. ACU Director of the First Peoples and Equity Pathways, Jane Ceolin, said she was pleased that a female Aboriginal student was chosen this year in light of the NAIDOC theme for 2018, ‘Because of Her, We Can!’ The Australian Embassies to the Holy See and to Italy congratulate Kate on her achievement and thank ACU for its generosity in funding the Scholarship.

25 June 2018 - Strengthening the Australia-Holy See relationship through a  Head of State Visit


During a visit to the Holy See on 25 June 2018, His Holiness Pope Francis received His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, AK MC (Retd), Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Her Excellency Lady Cosgrove. Following the Papal Audience, Their Excellencies met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State (Prime Minister equivalent). They then visited the Australian Catholic University (ACU) / Catholic University of America (CUA) Rome Campus and met with Vice President Rev Anthony Casamento and over eighty visiting Australian academics and students, in recognition of His Excellency’s former role as ACU Chancellor. The morning’s program concluded with a Prayer Service celebrated by the Right Rev Michael Kelly OSB Silv, Abbot General of the Order of St Benedict, in commemoration of Indigenous Australian Francis Xavier Conaci at the Basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, where they were welcomed by Archbpriest His Eminence Cardinal James Harvey and Abbot Roberto Dotta. Their Excellencies completed their Holy See program with a reception at the residence of the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, where they met with members of the Curia, Australian diaspora, Pontifical Universities and faith-based NGOs.

29 May 2018 - Celebrating Reconciliation Week with the Launch of the Australia Catalogue

The Australian Embassy to the Holy See co-hosted the launch of the Australia Catalogue in the Vatican Museums on Tuesday 29 May, 2018.  The Catalogue is the result of a five-year collaboration between the Vatican Anima Mundi Museum, National Museum of Australia, Australian National University, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and Indigenous communities.  It documents Australia’s Indigenous history and culture and includes artefacts held in the Anima Mundi Museum’s Australia Collection.   The Catalogue was introduced by Director of the Vatican Anima Mundi Museum Fr Nicola Mapelli and presented by President of the Governorate and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See HE Melissa Hitchman, Director of the Vatican Museums Dr Barbara Jatta, CEO of AIATSIS Mr Craig Richie, Australian Editor Ms Katherine Aigner and Tiwi Islands artist Mr Pedro Wonaeamirri.  Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture HE Mons Paul Tighe and Fr Stephen Hackett of the ACBC General Secretariat also attended, along with 250 guests drawn from the diplomatic corps, academia, NGOs and Australian diaspora.  Indigenous artist Chris Williams followed the ceremony with a didgeridoo performance.  A reception followed.  The Catalogue is one in the Anima Mundi Museum’s series on Indigenous culture across the world.  The Launch occurred during Australia’s Reconciliation Week, marking two major events in Australia’s 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.  Reconciliation Week is therefore a time to recognise Australia’s Indigenous culture and foster positive efforts toward further reconciliation.  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has welcomed the Catalogue for those unable to visit the Museum in-person as a “remarkable guide” to the “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians who have cared for our country for over 60,000 years…and their elders who continue to hold the knowledge of their rich and diverse cultures”

25 May 2018: Showcasing Australian expertise at the Venice Architecture Biennale Holy See Pavilion

HE Melissa Hitchman attended the opening of the inaugural Venice Architecture Biennale Holy See Pavilion on 25 May 2018 (photo 2).  Award-winning Melbourne-based architect Sean Godsell featured as one of ten international architects selected by the Holy See to design for its Vatican Chapels on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.  Based on the 1920 Woodland Chapel concept of acclaimed Swedish architect Erik Gunnar Asplund, and conceived by Franceso Dal Co. Electa, the chapel was built by Maeg Zintek based in Nice (photo 1).  The Pavilion was opened by President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, His Eminence Cardinal Ravasi, and will remain open to the public until 25 November 2018.  Tickets are available online. The Embassy congratulates Sean Godsell and all involved in the project.

10 May 2018 - Exploring cultural diplomacy with Università Cattolica

The Australian Ambassadors to the Holy See and Italy - Their Excellencies Ms Melissa Hitchman and Dr Greg French - briefed students from the Universita Cattolica’s Cultural Diplomacy Master’s Course on 10 May 2018 on the promotion of Australian cultural diversity through foreign policy as outlined in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper (pp109-115).

26 April 2018 - Supporting Sant'Egidio's work with migrant communities

Australian Federal Police Liaison Officer Bianca Warland (centre of photo, holding gift basket), visiting from The Hague and accompanied by colleagues from the Australian Embassy to the Holy See (including HE Ambassador Hitchman (fourth adult from the right) and Deputy Head of Mission Alison Edye (third adult from the left)), gifted Uniforms4Kids to migrant students from the Sant'Egidio Community Centre in Rome on 26 April 2018.  They were gratefully received by, from left to right: Centre Coordinator Monica Attias, Gandj and Mariam (holding their daughter Stella), Deborah and Johnny in front of them, Awet (Deborah’s mother), Sara (holding her daughter Joy), Wegatha (Johnny’s mother), Tamar (holding her baby Maria), Susannah and Jamila.  The clothing is repurposed from the AFP, Border Force and Australia Zoo for those in need.  The Embassy thanks Sant'Egidio for its collaboration.

23 April 2018 - Fostering Church-State-Indigenous Collaboration, New Norcia WA

 New Norcia Abbot John Herbert welcomed HE Melissa Hitchman to the monastic community on 23 April 2018 to open the Museum upgrade made possible by a grant from WA’s Regional Visitor Centre Sustainability Grant.  Curator Joy Legge and Collections Manager Marina Baker showed Ambassador Hitchman the exhibits dating to 1900 in the upgraded gallery.  Parish representative Keith Hunt, Board representative Jan Stagbouer, Oblates Peter and Lucette Quinlan, and Indigenous representatives Lester Jacobs and May Taylor celebrated with lunch, a recital by Fr Robert Nixon and a tour of the community facilities.  Ambassador Hitchman thanks all involved for their hospitality and congratulates the New Norcia Benedictine Community, founded by Dom Rosendo Salvado OSB, on preserving its contribution to Church-State-Indigenous collaboration for over 170 years.

23 April 2018 - Forging educational opportunities with the Holy See, Notre Dame University, Fremantle WA

Notre Dame University Vice Chancellor Professor Celia Hammond and VC Chief of Staff Dr Martin Drum (photo: second from left and second from right with students Rob Abrahams, Yasmin Martino and Henri Cameron) welcomed HE Melissa Hitchman to Notre Dame University’s Fremantle campus on 23 April 2018.  Ambassador Hitchman briefed students and colleagues on the Australia-Holy See bilateral relationship.  They - with Deputy Vice Chancellor Corporate Mr Peter Tranter, Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Peta Sanderson and Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of Campus Professor Selma Alliex - discussed opportunities for collaboration with Pontifical universities in Rome.  Ambassador Hitchman thanks Notre Dame for arranging the visit and looks forward to growing the relationship.

19 April 2018 - Promoting an understanding of Islam

The National Museum of Australia, Vatican Anima Mundi Museum and Shajar Museums Authority launched the ‘That you may know each other’ exhibition in Canberra on 19 April 2018.  Vatican Museums Director Fr Nicola Mapelli (pictured) was welcomed by NMA Director Dr Matthew Trinca.  HE Melissa Hitchman attended, along with many other guests drawn from the Australian clerical and religious, diplomatic community and  academia.  See further advice on the exhibition here.


18 April 2018 - Combatting Modern Slavery

HE Melissa Hitchman met Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s Mr Chris Crewther MP, Executive Officer of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) Christine Carolan and colleagues in Melbourne on 18 April 2018.  Mr Crewther briefed the group on Hidden in Plain Sight: the Inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act in Australia.  Read the Inquiry’s report here.  The Embassy works with ACRATH (a member of UISG), the Sant’Egidio Community, Santa Marta Group, Department of Home Affairs, the Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Australian Federal Police, Walk Free Foundation and others on combatting modern slavery.

18 April 2018 - Supporting Australian cultural diplomacy

HE Melissa Hitchman met Director of the Australian Tapestry Workshop Antonia Syme in Melbourne on 18 April 2018.  The two exchanged advice on the history and use of the tapestry displayed at the residence of the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See: Kunawarritj to Wajaparni, 2011.  The work is part of the Tapestry Foundation's Australian Embassy Collection, which places tapestries by Indigenous artists throughout the world.  It is featured on this website.  It was designed by artists Jeffrey James, Charlie Wallabies Tjungurrayi, Patrick Tjungurrayi, Richard Yukenbarri Tjakamarra, Clifford Brooks and Putuparri  Tom Lawford and woven by Sue Batten, Chris Cochins, Milly Formby, Pamela Joyce and Emma Sulzberger.  Ambassador Hitchman and Ms Syme are pictured here with Gordian Knot, 2016, by Keith Tyson.


17 April 2018 - Strengthening educational links with the Holy See

HE Melissa Hitchman was welcomed to Campion College Sydney by College President Dr Paul Morrissey (in the red tie) and Dean of Students Dr Luciano Boschiero (far left) on 17 April.  She briefed students on the Australia-Holy See bilateral relationship in preparation for their visit to Rome in July.  The Embassy thanks Campion College for its hospitality.


14 April 2018 - Fostering understanding of the Australia-Holy See bilateral relationship at Holy Spirit Seminary, Banyo, Queensland


HE Melissa Hitchman visited the Holy Spirit Seminary at Banyo, Queensland, in order to brief seminarians (photo 1), staff, Australian Catholic University colleagues and Brisbane Archdiocesan visitors (photo 2: Archdiocese of Brisbane Murri Ministry member Mr David Miller, Archdiocese of Brisbane Vicar General Monsignor Peter Meneely and ACU Pro Vice Chancellor and Campus Head Professor Jim Nyland) on the role of both the Ambassador and the Embassy to the Holy See, Australia’s diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and the foreign policy agenda that both share. She responded to questions and met with attendees following her briefing. Ambassador Hitchman was pleased to have this opportunity, as part of her program of midterm consultations in Australia.  

11-17 April 2018 - Saluting our region at the Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania

Villagers of Hanuabada, St Michael’s Parish, welcomed Holy See Secretary of State (Prime Minister-equivalent) His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin (top right in white), 70 bishops from the region and guests including HE Melissa Hitchman (bottom left) to the Assemply of the Federation of Oceania Catholic Bishops Conferences in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, hosted by FCBCO President His Eminence Cardinal John Ribat MSC (left of Cardinal Parolin) from 11-17 April 2018. Representatives in traditional dress from provinces throughout Papua New Guinea participated.


8 March 2018 – Celebrating Indigenous Culture on International Women’s Day with 2017 Senior Australian of the Year Sr Anne Gardiner


In recognition of International Women’s Day 2018, the Australian Embassies to the Holy See and Italy hosted an inspiring morning with guest speaker and 2017 Senior Australian of the Year, Sister Anne Gardiner (Photo 1 at the General Papal Audience draped in the Tiwi Islands Flag. Addressing the audience in Photo 2).  A Daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH), Sister Anne is known for her work on the remote Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory with the Tiwi community.  She has devoted her life to enhancing opportunities for the Tiwi people and preserving Indigenous language and culture.  As an exemplary model of Church-State-Indigenous collaboration, Sister Anne shared her experiences in working in a cross-cultural context and the importance of leadership for Indigenous women in particular. 

Both Ambassadors addressed the audience and provided their own insights into the importance of Women in Leadership and the need for Male Champions for Change.  Around 100 guests attended from the Diplomatic Corps, the Roman Curia and Italian government, the Australian religious and lay communities, international organisations and media.  Guests also enjoyed an opportunity for networking and further dialogue at the morning tea following.  The Australian Embassies thank Sister Anne for sharing her experience, and the National Australia Day Council of the Northern Territory, Australian Catholic University, Sydney Swans, Archdiocese of Sydney, Tiwi Islands Communities and countless private donors for their support in facilitating Sr Anne’s visit to Rome for this event.  See Vatican News' interview here

13 February 2018 - Honouring Australian feminist, activist, theologian and author Rosemary Goldie AO


As part of the Australian Government’s Women in Leadership agenda, the Minister for Defence, Senator the Honourable Marise Payne, opened the Embassy's Rosemary Goldie Room on 13 February 2018 (photo 1).  Goldie was an Australian feminist, activist, theologian and author.  As Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (1967-1976), she made history as the first woman to hold an official post of authority in the Roman Curia (photo 2).  Guests attended from the Holy See (Undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development Dottoressa Flaminia Giovanelli, Head of the Office of Women in the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life Dottoressa Marta Rodriguez and the Secretariat of State’s Francesca di Giovanni), diplomatic corps (Ambassadors from Georgia, Peru, Ireland, the UK and Benin), academia (including ACU Pro-Chancellor Julien O’Connell), church (Little Sisters of the Poor Srs Imelda Magee and Jacqueline Welisarage, photo 2) and media (National Catholic Reporter’s Joshua McElwee and The Tablet’s Christopher Lamb).  Two gathered knew and worked with her: Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Dottoressa Flaminia Giovanelli and the Ambassador for Benin HE Agnes Avognon Adjaho.  Rosemary Goldie’s life is recalled through her own hand in From a Roman Window (photo 3).  In 1990, Goldie was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for ‘service to religion and to international relations’.  On her death in Sydney in 2010, aged 94, the Pontifical Council for the Laity declared Goldie ‘a protagonist for five fruitful decades of the contemporary historical movement of promotion of the laity who left a memorable and very dear trace…for…her competent and untiring service in the Roman Curia’.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See is delighted to honour Rosemary Goldie AO and her contribution to church-state relations as a woman in leadership.

1 February 2018 - Promoting Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper

Australian Ambassador to the Holy See HE Melissa Hitchman passed a copy of Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper released in November 2017 by Australian Prime Minister The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP to President of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson on 1 February 2018.   See #FPWhitePaper



1 February 2018 - Australian Chair of the Board of the Crop Trust safeguarding biodiversity and food security through innovation


Chair of the Board of the 145 member nation not-for-profit Crop Trust, The Hon Tim Fischer AC, briefed Secretary for Relations with States (Holy See Foreign Minister equivalent) HE Archbishop Paul Gallagher (Photo 1) on 1 February 2018 on the Crop’s Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, which is safeguarding biodiversity and food security against conflict, disease and climate change.  During his visit to the Holy See, Mr Fischer and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Secretary HE Archbishop Silvano Tomasi exchanged memoirs: Holy See, Unholy Me! and The Holy See and the Family of Nations: Diplomatic Actions of the Holy See at the UN (Photo 2)

26 January 2018 - Celebrating Australia Day


The Australian Embassy to the Holy See and Domus Australia co-hosted a record number of guests on 26 January 2018 to celebrate Australia's National Day.  Domus Australia Rector Monsignor John Boyle (Photo 4) and Australian Ambassador to the Holy See HE Melissa Hitchman thanked HE Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP (Photo 3 - with The Hon Julia Gillard AC) as principal celebrant to a preceding mass in the St Peter Chanel Chapel.  Australian Catholic University Indigenous Health and Culture lecturer Ms Colleen Kelly read an Indigenous Thanksgiving Prayer at the following reception.  Guests included the 27th Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Board for the Global Partnership for Education The Honourable Julia Gillard AC (Photo 1), Holy See Secretary for Relations with States (Foreign Minister equivalent) HE Archbishop Paul Gallagher (Photo 1 - 2nd from left), Holy See Assessor for General Affairs (Deputy Interior Minister equivalent) Monsignor Paolo Borgia, Holy See Undersecretary for Relations with States (Deputy Foreign Minister equivalent) Monsignor Antoine Camilleri (Photo 1 - right) and Holy See Chief of Protocol Monsignor Jose Bettencourt, as well as others from the Curia, Holy See diplomatic corps, academia, NGOs, media, and the Australia diaspora in and around the Holy See and Italy.  The Australian Embassy to the Holy See thanks all for their generous support.

10 January 2018 - Women Ambassadors welcoming US Ambassador to the Holy See

HE Melissa Hitchman, along with the other nine resident women Ambassadors currently accredited to the Holy See, welcomed US Ambassador to the Holy See, HE Callista Gingrich on 10 January.  Pictured L-R are HE Emma Madigan, Ireland; HE Tamara Grdzelidze, Georgia; HE Miroslava Rosas Vargas, Panama; HE Callista Gingrich, USA; HE Melissa Hitchman, Australia; HE Slavica Karacic, Bosnia-Herzegovina;  HE Tetyana Izhevska, Ukraine; HE Agnes Avognon Adjaho, Benin and HE Sally Axworthy MBE, UK. HE Annette Schavan of Germany and HE Elvira Velasquez Rivas-Plata of Peru sent good wishes.  All exchanged views on prosecuting respective national interests with the Roman Curia, including leveraging the resources of pontifical universities, national colleges, and diaspora.