“Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria etc.” vs “Day of Celebration of Democracy in Australia”

The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne has issued the following communique to the Clergy, Staff and Members of the Archdiocese:

The Holy Father announced during the Angelus a Day of Prayer & Fasting for Peace in Syria, in the Middle East and throughout the whole world next Saturday 7th September 2013.

Mindful of the appalling events in Syria, ongoing violence and unrest, you are encouraged to ask your people to pray with and for, those who suffer at this time. You may choose to use the Prayers of the Faithful or any other opportunity for prayer you deem appropriate. Pope Francis has indicated that non-Catholics too, may wish to join in these gestures of solidarity.

Pope Francis will lead a Prayer Vigil in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City at 7.00pm. He invites all the Church to unite with him in prayer and fasting for those whose lives are beset by turmoil and violence that peace may reign across the world.

Monsignor Greg Bennet
VICAR GENERAL

Like me, I hope you are all welcoming this initiative from Pope Francis. President Obama is pressuring Congress. Let us pressure heaven (in a manner of speaking).

Small spanner in the works: we have another event on Saturday, which is taking some of our nation’s attention. By 7pm this Saturday many of us will have already tuned in to the TV reports from the Election counting rooms, eager to know what the next three or so years might hold for Australian politics. Some have suggested that our time might indeed be better spent in prayer and fasting for world wide peace at this time, than watching the last hurrahs of the federal election campaign.

But – for those of you who like me will find the counting room specials irresistible (even flicking from one channel to another and following on twitter at the same time) – there is an alternative. Pope Francis’ vigil will be from 19:00 to 24:00 hrs Italian time on Saturday 7th. By my calculations, that will be the equivalent of 3:00 to 8:00 hours on Sunday 8th here in Oz. I am sure EWTN, Salt&Light, CTV, or some such will have live video coverage.

So, watch the electoral coverage, have a drink to celebrate (mutatis mutandis if you backed the losing party), grab a few hours sleep, then rise for an early matins vigil at 3am to join Pope Francis for the Vigil in St Peter’s square. Pray for peace in Syria, Middle East, and throughout the world. Then go to early mass on Sunday morning to give thanks that we live in a country where we been blessed with an authentic democracy and truly stable peace.

Then go home and catch up on your sleep.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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7 Responses to “Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria etc.” vs “Day of Celebration of Democracy in Australia”

  1. Kate Edwards says:

    Good suggestion.

    But celebrating authentic democracy?! Hard to see it in an election that presents us with Hobson’s choice on most of the issues Catholics should care about.

    • Schütz says:

      I said “authentic”, not “ideal”! :-)

      I think our democracy IS authentic – it is real, and not a sham as it is in many other nations. Nevertheless there is nothing “ideal” about it, for in practice even the best democracy is still only the best of a whole lot of ways of going about the rather troublesome business of government.

  2. Peregrinus says:

    I think we have to be realistic about what we can expect of our democracy.

    In a parliamentary democracy, we don’t (constitutional referenda excepted) normally get to vote on issues. We get to choose legislators.

    And much and all as we like our legislators to make promises and to keep them, the fact is that we’re elected people to legislate on issues, many of which have yet to arise. And the same legislators will put in, or throw out, an executive department of government which, in turn, will be taking executive decisions about issues which have not yet arisen, in response to circumstances which have not yet arisen.

    Realistically, then, what we have to do it to try and choose legislators who we trust to decide well when faced with decisions which we do not yet contemplate. The specific promises a candidate makes now are of interest in so far as they shed light on the values which actuate him, and the approach he takes to issues generally, and the way he goes about making decisions.

    Since we’re all imperfect, inevitably the candidates presented to us will be imperfect, and unless we are rusted-on party loyalists at least some of their imperfections will be glaringly obvious. So effectively we are being asked to choose to place our trust in one of a range of candidates, all of whom are in one way or another unworthy of our trust.

    Or, to borrow a phrase from Kate, Hobson’s choice.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not authentic democracy. On the contrary, authentic democracy always offers you Hobson’s choice.

    I grant you, our democracy might be a bit better if it was less consumerist. Since at least the 1980s, we’ve been offered a neo-liberal narrative in which the state is a business, citizens are consumers and voting is an economic transaction, in which we use out votes as currency to “buy” commitments in the form of promises on which politicians must then deliver, because they’ve been paid for them. On this criterion, the good, honest politician delivers on his promise, even if it becomes apparent that it is not for the common good to do so. Conversely, the politician who responds to circumstances and developments and does something other than he initially indicated becomes a “liar”.

    This is a far cry from the classic values of liberal democracy, in which promising the voters material inducements to vote for you was considered a corrupt practice.

    Our democracy is authentic, but it might become a bit more authentic if we could develop a culture in which elections stopped being seen as a kind of auction sale.

  3. What a pity that the Melbourne communique like the blog of the Australian Catholic Bishops chose to invite “non Catholics” to join the September 7 act of prayer and fasting. I am saddened by this archaic language when the statement from the Holy Father in fact spoke of “other Christian brothers and sisters, to the brothers and sisters of other religions and to the men and women of good will who desire to join in this initiative, in places and ways of their own.” And I congratulate the Melbourne Archdiocese for this initiative. Still waiting to hear if anything comes from the Archbishop’s office in Brisbane.

    • Schütz says:

      It is a high priority in the Glorious See – just this morning at mass after the homily, our visiting priest gave us a rousing encouragement to get involved on Saturday. I’ve been very busy on an initiative re Syria in the last few days that I will make public as soon as the media release is out.

      I share your cringe on the terminology.

      • Kate Edwards says:

        Isn’t this cringe a case of political correctness gone mad David?

        Non-catholic is perfectly accurate and I really can’t see how anyone would take it as a pejorative these days, except from the most extreme fringe.

  4. Joshua says:

    Mass in my parish last night was offered for the suffering people of Syria.

    Having watched the election night coverage through to past midnight, I said my prayers and went to bed…

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