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Archbishop Comensoli Christmas message

Friends, I recently heard an Advent prayer that has a striking line in it, describing Jesus’ birth. It said:

[Jesus], when the soles of your feet touch the ground,
… you become one of us, to be at one with us.

The image of God’s bare feet touching the earth is such an evocative one. 

Especially at this time of year, we know only too well what it feels like to do the ‘great Aussie dance’ across a hot beach or prickly lawn! 

But of course, this image is far more than a physical reminder.

For Christmas is the divinity of God born into our humanity. 

Through the Incarnation, God comes to us, withholding nothing of himself from us.

Barefooted—taking on our flesh, our human condition—in order to touch, and to be touched, in the particularities of our lives: this is Emmanuel—God with us. 

Christmas is God placing an exclamation mark on his words, ‘I am with you!’

Our God, whose name is Jesus, has walked with us through the tough years of the pandemic and is touching the ground now where healing and renewal is needed. 

The Son of God is walking through the streets of Ukraine and Myanmar, Ethiopia and Lebanon, with feet bloodied from war, conflict and repression, yet still taking the steps needed towards peace and liberation. 

He has seen and felt both the joy of our existence and the suffering of those who are lost or vulnerable. He has awakened us to an attentiveness for our global humanity, and a care for our common home. 

So I wonder if, this Christmas and for the year ahead, it is time to remove the ‘shoes’ that keep us from standing barefoot with Jesus—to feel the sacred ground of our lives with God?

Might we come before him ‘barefoot’ in our frailties, yet alive in the wonder of our humanity—made in his image—ready and willing to live as the people of God he has created us to be—fraternally, lovingly, caringly; generous, forgiving and hopeful. 

May Jesus, the barefooted child of the living God, fill you and your loved ones with abundant joy and peace. Happy Christmas!

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WCC Christmas message

(Originally posted on World Council of Churches website)

Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC Acting general secretary,

At the recent WCC Assembly in Karlsruhe, which reflected on the love of Christ that moves the world to reconciliation and unity, the moving and challenging question of a Muslim guest who addressed the delegates remained deep in my heart: “Is the love of Christ for Christians alone or it is also for me?”

The joyful message of the first Christmas states that the love of God in Christ is meant indeed for all people, for the whole of creation. During the night when Jesus was born, an angel appears to shepherds who live in the fields and watch over their flock. The shepherds are frightened. The angel tells them, “do not be afraid!” and adds, “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born . . . a Saviour.” Then many angels proclaim to the humble shepherds glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward people.

Our time is a time of fear. Some fear for the survival of future generations or the submersion of their home islands because of the climate emergency we are experiencing. Many are afraid today that they will no longer be able to feed their children tomorrow. Others are afraid that military conflicts may cause nuclear disasters. In our age of social networks, fear is leading to increasing hate speech, to a proliferation of conspiracy theories, violations of human rights, and threats to democracy.

The encouraging words of the angel – “do not be afraid!” – reflect the ancient Christian teaching that faith and love drive out fear. The angel of the first Christmas called the shepherds to have faith in the divine promise of peace on earth and God’s goodwill towards humanity.

The words of the angel are addressed to you and to me today: “Do not be afraid!” The promise of the angels is addressed to you and to me today: “Peace on earth and good will toward people!” As we welcome this promise, God’s Spirit makes us people of good will.

Who are people of good will? As Christians we are aware and confess that our very call and vocation as Christ’s disciples is to be people of good will, agents of reconciliation, and peacemakers, living out Christ’s love for the world. People of good will are also people of other faiths or people of no religion who share today in this compassionate love for their neighbours and especially for the most vulnerable, and live out in their daily lives the values of the kingdom. They are those from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, who seek to live simply for the sake of the preservation and renewal of the whole creation. They are those who affirm today the dignity of every human being and resist the sins of Christian nationalism, racism, and xenophobia. They are our companions on the pilgrimage of justice, reconciliation, and unity.

As we welcome the beautiful message of the first Christmas, God’s Spirit calls us to become agents of reconciliation in the places we live. Ours is a time of growing polarization in family life, local communities, churches, and nations; tensions that produce conflict and trauma. 

At the first Christmas, God came to us in Jesus of Nazareth that we may be reconciled with God and become servants of reconciliation. With all good wishes for a blessed Christmas season, we invite you to welcome in faith and love the angels’ promise of peace on earth, and to live as a pilgrim on the path to justice, reconciliation, and unity.

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A Christmas message

A 2022 Christmas message from Ukrainian Bishop Mykola Bychok

“Don’t cry, Rachel, look, the children are whole,

do not die, but come to life, but come to life”

(Christmas Carol) 

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Dear Beloved in Christ!

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the greatest feasts of the church’s Liturgical year. In the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sake became a little child, we see the closeness of the Holy God to sinful man. That is why the Ukrainian people have Christmas traditions that are very deep, powerful, and express this great truth with great vitality. We glorify Christ through participation in the Nativity scene, where we remember the All-Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph the Betrothed, the angels, the shepherds, the three kings, as well as Herod, the soldiers and death. We share the joy of the birth of the Son of God, greeting each other “Christ is born! Glorify Him!”

The joy of Christmas is always intertwined with notes of sadness. The Christmas carol “Don’t cry, Rachel” refers directly to Herod’s murder of the innocent children in Bethlehem. The newborn Jesus continues to manifest himself in the suffering children of war, frozen by hunger and cold, in orphaned and abandoned children, in disabled and wounded children, in street-kids and sick children, in poor and large families fleeing from war. From an early age, children are forced to hide from shelling, receive education in bomb shelters, and freeze in their homes. The newborn Messiah sympathizes with those whose childhoods are scarred by war.

Today, many of our people have become refugees, following the example of the Holy Family, who also fled to save the life of the Child Jesus. Unfortunately, people closed their houses in Bethlehem in front of the Holy Family. Jesus feels the pain of Ukrainians who are forced to leave their homes to save the lives of their children. The Saviour accompanies the refugees, opening the hearts of Christians from all over the world to the needs of their neighbours.

In this great feast, we see the Holy Family: the Mother of God, who tenderly embraces her Son, Saint Joseph, who cares for the good of the family, and the infant Jesus, who gently sleeps in the arms of His Mother. A family feels something similar when a child is born: love, comfort and a look into the future. For now, however, this Christmas, for many families, will be filled with unspeakable pain, separation from loved ones, and uncertainty about the future. I remember the Ukrainian families in my prayers and call on all the faithful to pray fervently in their families for those families who are victims of this unjust war today.

We as a people are once again experiencing painful pages in our history. Once again, we are fighting for our freedom, defending our God-given rights. Despite all the trials, however, we celebrate the Nativity of Christ, singing the Christmas carol: “The Eternal God is born.” We experience the incredible love of the newborn Baby, which envelops and unites all Ukrainians.

Let the coming of the Baby Jesus warm our hearts with God’s warmth, though many hearts are wounded by hatred, cruelty and the death of the innocent. May God’s presence amongst us give us a spark of joy, in the midst of sadness, and suffering. May He grant us patience to faithfully persevere in the trials we experience. May He fill us with hope for a better future and the victory of good over evil. May He strengthen us in faith and understanding that we may know confidently that we are not alone in these trials – “God is with us”.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!


Eparch of Melbourne

Given in Melbourne, 

at our Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,

on the 4th day of December, in the Year of Our Lord 2022,

The Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple.

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International Volunteer Day

Volunteering Australia proudly supports International Volunteer Day (IVD)on 5 December 2022, to raise awareness of the important role volunteers play in responding to challenges facing the world.

Of course, it’s most appropriate to celebrate ‘volunteerism’ in congregations, where so much of the living out of our baptism and Christian discipleship is through engaging in any number of volunteer roles. We also know that in churches there can be a shortfall of volunteers in various areas of church ministry and mission. This shortage of leaders can force churches to shut down ministries; to overload those who are currently volunteering; or if budget allows, hire staff to lead things, which simply leads to a bottleneck later down the line. Anthony Hilder reflects on good leadership practices that support church volunteers in both quantity and engagement, and most importantly, give them opportunities to grow.

IVD is a day to celebrate and promote volunteering. There are millions of volunteers in Australia and the contributions that they make to communities around the country are enormous. IVD is an opportunity to acknowledge, thank and shine a light on the important work of volunteers. 

The International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2022 theme is Solidarity through Volunteering.

Rising inequalities throughout the world implore that we need to work together to find common solutions. Volunteers, drawn together by solidarity, develop solutions to urgent development challenges and for the common good.

Volunteering is where compassion meets solidarity. Both share the same root values – supporting each other from a position of trust, humility, respect and equality.

For the future of our planet, we must act together and we must act now. This is not an era to stand alone but together, as one, in solidarity with each other and for the sake of all people and the planet.

Encouraging, recognising, and promoting volunteerism is an important part of creating a more equal and inclusive future for communities worldwide.

Together, we’re stronger.
Together, we create change.
Together, for the common good.
Together, we make a difference.
Together we find solutions

(message from IVD)

Volunteers and volunteering have been impacted greatly by COVID-19 and now is the time to invest and commit to reinvigorating volunteering in Australia.

Volunteering Australia is leading the process for a new National Strategy for Volunteering, designed and owned by the volunteering ecosystem, it will provide a blueprint for a reimagined future for volunteering in Australia.

The 2023 National Volunteering Conference is being held on Ngunnawal Country, Canberra at the Australian National University from 13-14 February 2023. Ticketing is now open and early bird registration is available until Friday 16 December 2022.

(adapted from Volunteering Australia post)

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Bishop Mykola Mychok message

1.12.2022 A pastoral message
(Ukrainian Catholic Church, Melbourne)

«If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask,

it will be done for them by my Father in heaven» (Mt. 18, 19)

Glory be to Jesus Christ,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Prayer should occupy a prominent place in the life of every Christian, in the life of each and every one of us. After all, prayer is a “life-giving breath”. St. John Climacus says that prayer by its very nature is the communication and union of man with God, and by its action it supports the world and unites it with God. “Prayer is our main rule of life. As we pray more often, we progressively bring prayer closer to our daily affairs until prayer becomes one of our main daily activities and all other endeavours are filled with the spirit of prayer” (Catechism UGCC, 700).

Our prayer has varying types and dimensions. The catechism of the UGCC “Christ Our Pascha” teaches four types of prayer: Praise, Thanksgiving, Penitential Prayer and Prayer of Supplication (810-821). In this message, I would like to briefly focus your attention on the last type of prayer – the Prayer of Supplication (prayer of request).

In communication with God, the request occupies an important place. “Sometimes people turn to God in prayer demanding unconditional fulfilment of their desires and needs. True supplication, however, is not a demand, but rather a readiness to accept God’s reply, fully trusting in him. This is because we realise that He always grants us what we need” (Catechism UGCC, 820).

From an early age, we learned to pray privately and ask God for all of our necessities and needs. This is indeed very good, because a personal conversation with God (which our private prayer is) supports us, strengthens u, and is the basis of our relationship with our loving Father.

“The mature prayer of the Christian has two dimensions: liturgical and personal”, however (Catechism UGCC, 668). In addition to our personal prayer, there should always be time set aside for common, liturgical prayer. Common prayer is at the same time a symbol of the common faith of the Church. “For the liturgy, through which the work of our redemption is accomplished, most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 2).

To date, the understanding of the importance of common prayer during the Divine Liturgy and submission of personal requests (intentions) for prayer has been lost in our Eparchy. Although, speaking to our faithful, this good practice existed from the beginning of the Eparchy.

I would like to point out that every day of the week has its own special significance in the liturgical life of the church: Monday is dedicated to angels; Tuesday – to Saint forerunner John the Baptist; Wednesday – to the Cross and the Theotokos; Thursday – to the apostles and Saint Nicholas; Friday – to the Holy Cross; Saturday – for all the saints and for the deceased, and Sunday – for the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, every day and every Sunday we have the opportunity to add our requests and intentions to prayer during the Liturgy.

Every time we are present in the church at the Divine Service, we are together, praying as a community “for everyone and everything.” All the petitions of our services are directed to the Lord, who “is able to provide [us] with every blessing in abundance, so that [we] may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9, 8).

In addition to general requests and intentions, each of us can submit our personal intention. The Church instituted these different consecrations and blessings according to the needs of the people. The Holy Spirit gives life to the faithful and sanctifies them both in the Holy Mysteries and in diverse blessings and consecrations. In these prayers the Church, like a compassionate Mother caring for her children, whether living or deceased, prays for their salvation. Through these prayers of the Church our vocation to sanctify every aspect of our life – that is, to fill it with the memory of God’s presence in all things and in every place – is realized (Catechism UGCC, 500-501).

Each of the faithful can ask a priest for prayer in a specific intention or blessing for a specific thing. In the temple, we can submit our request for prayer in a special intention to the priest, emphasizing an important event in our personal life, or someone else for whom we would like to order this or some other intention. Such a prayer can be a Divine Liturgy for both the living and the dead, or Moleben or Akathist for the living, or Panakhyda or Parastas for the dead. Therefore, the names of the living or the deceased for commemoration at the Liturgy or other divine services are accepted from all those who want the priest to pray for them.

A special service where we can add our private petitions is a Divine Liturgy. This Divine Service is the peak towards which the Church’s action is directed, and at the same time the source from which all Its power flows. The Divine Liturgy consists of the Proskomide, the Liturgy of the Word; and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Divine Liturgy the mystery of salvation is accomplished. This salvation is the bringing together of God and humankind in Christ, the “building up of the body of Christ” (Catechism UGCC, 345). The petition (intention) of each Divine Liturgy is “[that God] unite all of us, who share in this one bread and cup, with one another into the communion of the one Holy Spirit…” and that the communicants would gain “sobriety of the soul, forgiveness of sins, fellowship of the Holy Spirit, fulfilment of the kingdom of heaven…”.

The Catechism of the UGCC teaches that the faithful participate in the Proskomide (the first part of the Liturgy) by presenting requests for prayers for themselves and for others, and by bringing offerings. Therefore, we must remember that these petitions (intentions) should not be limited only to birthday anniversaries, the anniversaries of the departure of our loved ones to eternity, or in times of extreme need.

I would like to emphasize that the parish priests/administrators every Sunday at the Holy Liturgy have the duty to pray the intention for all the faithful of their parish. This means that it is impossible to pray another intention on Sunday, unless there are several priests in the parish.

In our tradition, every Saturday is dedicated to the memory of all saints and the deceased. Accordingly, on this day, the Liturgy is served with this intention. After the reading of the Holy Gospel, there is a separate litany for the dead, during which a priest prays for our deceased by name. Therefore, we have the opportunity to add the names of the deceased from our families to this prayer. In addition, let’s remember Sorokousty during Great Lent and all other All Souls’ Saturdays, on which we remember in a special way all those who have already passed from this life.

Intention for the living should also have a proper place in our Liturgical prayer. After reading the Holy Gospel at the Liturgy, the priest prays a separate request for the living, mentioning everyone by name. Therefore, we can submit the names of our relatives and friends and the intentions of their needs (for health, for healing, for travel, in a good cause, etc.) every day, since each of us is a unique person whom God calls by name. When we bring and offer to God “all the cares of our life,” we transcend our private lives and enter into a new and ecclesial, comprehensive and universal communion (Catechism UGCC, 353).

Today our monetary donation “for the Liturgy” dates back to ancient times, as the faithful brought bread, wine, oil, incense and various gifts for the Divine Service. These gifts were used for the Liturgy, and other gifts were intended for the needs of the clergy and the relief of the poor. So nowadays, by making our monetary donation, we continue this ancient custom and support our priests in their ministry.

I encourage all our faithful to contact their priests and submit their requests (petitions/intentions) as often as possible. And I kindly ask the priests to remind their faithful about the importance of common prayer in various needs.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!


Eparch of Melbourne

Given in Melbourne, at our Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,

on the 1st day of December, in the Year of Our Lord 2022,

the Holy Martyrs Platon and Roman.

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MCSI Christmas Message

VCC Executive Officer, Rev (Deacon) Sandy Boyce, delivered the Christmas message to the Melbourne Church of South India Christmas Carols service on 26th November 2022.


Firstly let me acknowledge we meet on the sacred lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. It has been their land since time immemorial, land that was taken, not ceded. I wish to acknowledge their right and responsibility to care for the land and the waters. I acknowledge their Elders – past, present and emerging, and invite us all to a commitment to walk with the First Nations People as they seek truth-telling and for their voices to be heard and valued, as they seek justice, and as we all turn our attention to the imperative for reconciliation.

And let me say – welcome! It was such a joy on Wednesday to officially welcome the Melbourne Church of South India as a Member Church of the Victorian Council of Churches. We are glad to have you join this vibrant ecumenical body, and we welcome your contribution.

I have been invited here tonight as the Executive Officer, Victorian Council of Churches. And as a friend to MCSI.

I am a Minister in the Uniting Church in Australia. In fact, in the lead up to union in 1977, a great deal of consideration was given to the Church of South India model (established in 1947). We share a lot in common!

In a previous role I held in the Uniting Church, I coordinated the program for Australian people serving as volunteers with partner churches in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Over a period of several years many volunteers were placed in India, continuing the rich heritage of those who had served as missionaries, living with and supporting the partner churches in India – Church of South India and Church of North India.

I had the privilege of visiting the volunteers, and key personnel in CSI who had responsibility for their volunteer placements.

I have visited Kerala (including a cricket match in Cochin!), but most of the time I have spent in India was in the Diocese of Madras, at the theological college in Madurai (TTS), as well as in Coimbatore and Andhra Pradesh. I learned to love so much about Indian culture, and also the strength, resilience and faithfulness of the Church of South India.

One year, I was visiting India in the Christmas season, and I visited a quite remote village with a small CSI chapel for Christian worship – memorably called Church of the Nativity. Such beautiful hospitality was extended to me, and those who accompanied me. It might also have had something to do with the fact the Bishop accompanied us!!

When most people think of the message of Christmas, they normally think about angels, wise men, shepherds, joy to the world, peace and goodwill, and “to us a child is given.” Christmas is indeed a time to celebrate God’s blessings and peace to all. For the faithful, Christmas is a celebration that God is for us, God is near us, because God was one of us, embodied in the life of Jesus.

On that visit, the Bishop gave an address to the people where he offered a profound insight. He had learned to read the text through his experience of marginalisation and oppression. He spoke about the first people who received the good news of Jesus’ birth. Those shepherds in the field, workers, farm hands, watching their flocks by night. Social outcasts viewed with suspicion and contempt. And because they working with animals they were viewed as ‘polluted’, and cruelly ostracised.

It was those simple shepherds who first received the good news the angel brought – to them was born a saviour, the Lord, who would bring peace on earth. Not through the power and domination, but through the way that Jesus lived, the message he proclaimed and the good news he embodied. Jesus, Prince of Peace.

The Kingdom/Reign of God is the reverse of human societies. In the realm of God, it is the poor and the marginalized – the people without any power or privilege, like the shepherds – who are closest to God. What good news for those longing for signs of hope. No wonder the shepherds RUSHED to greet this child, the long awaited Messiah, God’s own in their midst, sharing the human journey.

It opened my eyes to something that is self-evident – but I had not seen. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. That the Christmas story is populated by people on the margins. The shepherds. And Mary, a teenage girl from Galilee expecting her first child a long way from home, without the support of close family and friends who could help her through the birth. Tradition has a donkey in the story but none of the gospels mention that form of transport and Mary and Joseph probably walked most of the way. They would have arrived tired from the journey, and then found no welcoming place for them to stay and so they stayed in the warmth of the place where the animals were kept safe in the cold of winter.

It’s interesting to think, what if Jesus had been born in entirely different circumstances? In the comfort of a home, with family and friends providing a warm welcome to the infant. But, instead, he arrived in a place far from home, a makeshift place for his birth, laid in the straw of an animal’s feeding trough. In a sense, not being born into grand circumstances placed him right in the midst of ordinary people living in extraordinarily difficult times – under occupation by a foreign power, and in the midst of a dark, cold, suffering world. It is a familiar story that has repeated throughout human history, and today we remember the people in Ukraine.

The Christmas story reveals that God’s liberating love will always be found and that hope will be born anew – even in the darkest corners of the world.

It would be true to say that Jesus’ birth, and his years in Egypt as a refugee, led him to deeply understand our struggles, as individuals and as a global community – of displacement, loneliness, financial hardship, and marginalisation by a society that too often gives power only to those with status and wealth.

Mary sang a song we call the Magnificat (Luke 1:26-35), of the realm of God breaking into the world, and upending systems, where there would be liberation from despair, fear and condemnation.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

Mary’s song proclaims that the powerful will be brought down from their thrones, the lowly lifted up, the hungry filled, and the rich sent away empty.

Now, the insights from the Bishop transformed my understanding about the Christmas story. Whereas some would spend time on arguing is the Christmas story true (what really happened?), the fresh insights opened my eyes, and also prompted me to think about power, wealth and status, and where I found my own place in the Christmas story. Because, I realised, it’s hard to see just how incredible the Christmas story is unless I was able to recognise that I was a beneficiary of education, status and power, and that so many people miss out on those privileges that I take for granted. Many are struggling. Many are denied basic human dignity.

To use this lens of displaced and marginalised people in the Christmas story brought it alive in completely fresh ways. God’s preferential option for the poor and marginalised makes these characters central to the story. And Jesus, born amongst ordinary hard working folk, is the one who would share God’s liberating love and grace and mercy, who would share the good news of hope.

If God’s preferential option is for the poor, the marginalized, and people without any power or privilege (like the shepherds), then the way to draw close to God is to be close to people who are like the shepherds in our time and place. The poor. The homeless. The lonely. The misunderstood.

Jesus manifested God’s love, in human flesh. Not through power and privilege, or wealth and status, but as one who came as a servant, offering hope, lifting people up to their full humanity.

The Christmas story marks the beginning of God renewing things on earth as they are in heaven – through the life of Jesus.

Christmas is not meant to be about consumerism and endless buying. Rather, it is the reminder we all need, each year, that we are called to follow the distinctive way of Jesus, and to manifest the love of God so all know they are welcome in God’s reign.

Now it’s our turn to be bearers of God’s love, justice, hope, peace and joy – to embody it as Jesus did. To join in with what God is doing in the world.

Christmas for Christians is intended to be a bold profession to entrust ourselves to God’s ways, and to resist the ways of the world.

The Christmas story is God’s alternative story to all the evil, injustice, brutality, suffering and death that we see around us. It will happen through loving kindness, reconciliation, peacemaking and a commitment to non-violence, and generous hospitality around a shared table where all are welcome, all are fed, all are loved.

May this blessed season of Advent bring peace, joy, love, and justice to each of you. Continue to preach the gospel in words and actions, to make the love of Jesus real to your friends, family and neighbours. Amen.

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CALD faith communities

A Monash study is currently underway researching how the Victorian government has engaged with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) faith communities since the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria.

Another aspect of the study is to examine how faith leaders and faith communities currently respond to family violence within their community.

The researchers (Ellen Cho, Liana Papoutsis and Shona Smith) are looking for additional participants for this study, and there has been a request to pass on the following information to any faith leaders and church committee members of Chinese Churches in Victoria (or Chinese people in leadership in congregations).

The Explanatory Statement has been translated into EnglishSimplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese

The draft email that has been circulated is below.


Participation in the project will involve group discussion, discussing any interactions you may or may not have had with the Victorian government, and your faith community’s current responses and processes to family violence that might arise in the faith community. You will not be personally named or identified in any reports that arise from this study.

Group discussions will take place online over Zoom for approximately 90 minutes. As a small token of appreciation, participants will receive an $80 Coles gift voucher for taking part in a group discussion.

For full information about the research project and an example of what participating in this research might look like, please click the link to the English version of the Explanatory Statement herethe Simplified Chinese version here, and the Traditional Chinese version here.


28 November from 2pm to 3:30pm; OR

1 December from 11am to 12:30pm

How to participate in this research

Anyone who wishes to participate can express their interest by emailing Shona Smith ( ‘I would like to participate in your research (date/time)’.

The researchers would appreciate responses about participation as soon as possible.

People interested in participating, but who are unavailable on 28 November or 1 December are asked to email Shona Smith (

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A meeting of two leaders

In April 2022, His Holiness Mar Awa III, elected Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East in September 2021, visited Australia.

The Assyrian Church of the East is an eastern Christian Church with historic roots in disputes over the Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, and is a member church of the Victorian Council of Churches.

On Saturday morning, November 19, 2022, he was received by His Holiness Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. He was accompanied by a delegation, in Rome from Nov 16-19th for the annual meeting of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.

The Patriarch offered a gift to the Pope which consisted of a stylistic Cross of the Assyrian Church of the East handmade in wood, and in turn, the Pope gifted a part of the relics of the Apostle St. Thomas to the Patriarch for the new Patriarchal Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Erbil, Iraq.

The meeting was very fraternal, and many issues concerning the Christians of the Middle East were discussed, along with matters centered around the ecumenical relations between the two Churches, and other sister Christian Churches as well.

Pope urges Catholics, Assyrian Christians to continue on common journey by Christopher Wells

In his address on Saturday, Pope Francis noted the growth in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church in recent decades, recalling the visits of Mar Awa’s predecessors Mar Dinkha IV and Mar Gewargis III, and the signing of documents including the Common Christological Declaration and a Statement on the situation of Christians in the Middle East.
The Holy Father also expressed his appreciation for the work of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the two Churches, highlighting a study on the Anaphora [Eucharistic Prayer] of the Apostles Addai and Mari, which allowed some reciprocal admission to the Eucharist in specific circumstances; as well as a Common Declaration on the Sacramental life.
“Your meetings and dialogues have, with the help of God, borne good fruit and fostered pastoral cooperation for the benefit of our faithful, a pastoral ecumenism that is the natural way towards full unity.”
The Pope also praised their current work on “images of the Church in the Syriac and Latin patristic tradition,” noting the tendency of the Church Fathers to speak of the Church using the “simple and universally accessible” language of images, following the example of Jesus. He emphasized the importance for faithful of both Churches not only to return to their roots, but to bear witness together to “the mystery of the love between Christ and His bride, the Church.”
In this regard, Pope Francis pointed to the many things the two Churches have in common, including a common history of faith and mission, great saints, a rich theological and liturgical patrimony, and, especially in recent decades, the witness of martyrs. In the historic home of the Assyrian Church in the Middle East, many Christians have been forced to leave their homelands, while many others have struggled to remain. With Mar Awa, Pope Francis renewed his appeal for the rights of those Christians – especially the right to religious liberty and the right to full citizenship – to be respected.
Noting that the faithful of both Churches already, in some places, live in almost full communion, Pope Francis said this is “a sign of the times, a powerful incentive for us to pray and to work diligently in preparation for the much awaited day when we can celebrate together the Eucharist, the holy Qurbana, at the same altar, as the fulfilment of the unity of our Churches.”
Looking ahead to Mar Awa’s talk on synodality in the Syriac tradition, Pope Francis insisted that “the journey of synodality undertaken by the Catholic Church is and must be ecumenical, just as the ecumenical journey is synodal. It is my hope that we can pursue, ever more fraternally and concretely, our own syn-odos, our ‘common journey’, by encountering one another, showing concern for one another sharing our hopes and struggles, and above all… our prayer and praise of the Lord.”
In particular, he thanked Mar Awa for his desire to find a common date for Easter, ensuring the Catholicos-Patriarch that the Catholic Church is ready to accept any proposal that is made together. “Let us have the courage to put an end to this division…” the Pope said, adding, “The sign we should give is: one Christ for all of us.” And he expressed a dream that the separation between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Catholic Church, “the longest in the history of the Church” might be “the first to be resolved.”
Pope Francis concluded his address by entrusting the journey towards full unity to “the intercession of the martyrs and saints who, already united in heaven, encourage our progress here on earth.” And he offered to Mar Awa the gift of a relic of the Apostle Saint Thomas, associated with the foundation of the churches in Assyria, which will be placed in the new Patriarchal Cathedral of the Assyrian Church in the East in Erbil, Iraq.
“May Saint Thomas, who touched with his hand the wounds of the Lord, hasten the complete healing of our wounds from the past,” the Pope said, “so that soon we may be able to acknowledge around the same Eucharistic altar the crucified and risen Christ, and say to Him, together: ‘My Lord and my God!’”

Thanks to Samir (Melbourne Assyrian Church of the East) for the news.

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Welcome to Marthoma Bishop

It was a pleasure to meet Rt. Rev. Dr. Gregorios Mar Stephanos Episcopa (Bishop) who is currently visiting Marthoma congregations in Australia. Bishop Gregorios Mar Stephanos is the inaugural Bishop of the new Marthoma Diocese of Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.

  • Ordained as Deacon 27th June 1986
  • Ordained as Kassessa (clergy priest) 30th July 1986
  • Ordained as Ramban 7th May 2011. A Ramban is a priest of the Jacobite Church, who is unmarried and leads a monastic life in a place of prayer called a Dayara.
  • Consecrated as Episcopa (Bishop) 13th August 2011

The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, often shortened to Mar Thoma Church, and known also as the Reformed Syrian Church and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, is an autonomous Reformed Oriental church based in Kerala, India. While continuing many of the Syriac high church practices, the church is reformed in its theology and doctrines. It employs a reformed variant of the West Syriac Rite Divine Liturgy of Saint James, translated to Malayalam, the language of Kerala.

The Mar Thoma Church sees itself as continuation of the Saint Thomas Christians, a community traditionally believed to have been founded in the first century by Thomas the Apostle, who is known as Mar Thoma (Saint Thomas) in Syriac, and describes itself as “Apostolic in origin, Universal in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, and Episcopal in character”.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Mar Thoma Christians lived in a few districts in Kerala. Since that time they have spread with the Indian diaspora to many places around the world, including Australia.

The Marthoma church has two congregations in Victoria – Parkville and Immanuel Marthoma Church (website here), Hampton Park.

149 Royal Parade, Parkville
Congregation at Immanuel Marthoma, Hampton Park (from the church’s Facebook page)

(More information on Wikipedia).

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Multicultural and Multifaith Law Reform

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced plans to form a new Multicultural and Multifaith Law Reform Consultative Committee made up of legal experts, community and faith leaders to advise the Attorney-General on law reform.

An expression of interest process will be open to all members of the Victorian community.

The Committee will look at legislation through a cultural and religious lens to ensure laws give all multicultural and faith communities the ability to contribute to the state, free from discrimination and racism.

Furthermore, a re-elected Labor Government plans to strengthen the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 to make it easier to prosecute any individual who incites hatred or bigotry based on someone’s faith or skin colour.

In recent years there has been a rise of neo-Nazi right wing extremism in Victoria, which has led to the rise of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism in the state.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes explained, “Recent events have shown the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act does not do enough to protect Victorians from multicultural backgrounds.”

Strengthening these laws will allow for greater protection of multicultural and faith communities in Victoria. It will ensure more prosecutions against those who incite hatred or racism against a person or group based on their cultural background or religious belief is prosecuted.