Chaplain's Comments

On Wednesday 21st March at St Mary's Cathedral, we were proud to introduce and welcome His Grace Timothy Costelloe SDB, as the New Archbishop of Perth, at a Solemn Mass as the ninth Bishop and Sixth Archbishop of Perth.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe was born in Melbourne on February 3, 1954, the second son of France John and Carmel Costelloe. He was educated at St Peter's parish primary school, East Bentleigh and at the Salesian College, Chadstone, from where he matriculated in 1971. After working in and through a variety of jobs he discerned his vocation and joined the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1977 and professed a Salesian in 1986. After further studies in Rome he returned to Melbourne to teach and work in the area of formation of Young Salesians.

Then in 1996, he had a short stint of Parish ministry and Lectureship in Perth, during this tenure in Western Australia, he attended the synod for Oceania in Rome as Archbishop Hickey's able theological adviser which did reveal and communicate new possibilities, as Rector, Parish Priest, Provincial Councillor, Province Delegate for Formation, Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne and now Archbishop of Perth.

At the Liturgical Reception, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, took on his motto as "VIA VERITAS VITA", the Way, the Truth and the Life, choosing this line from the Gospel of John 14:6. In choosing this motto, Archbishop Timothy wishes to show to all that Jesus stands at the heart of our faith. His words at the Mass proclaimed quite clearly and distinctly the new directions for us to embrace, as the opening hymn declared it so beautifully, "Christ, be our light, Shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness. Christ, be our light! Shine in your Church gathered today!"

May we pray for our New Archbishop in these words, "O Lord, who for the feeding of your flock have set your servant Timothy, over it as successor to the Apostles, grant him, we pray, a spirit of counsel and fortitude, a spirit of knowledge and piety, so that, by faithfully governing the people entrusted to him he may build up in the world the sacrament of the Church, through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Recently Fr. Frank Brennan SJ presented the Lenten reflections on various issues confronting our country; I would like to leave with you his thoughts on the refugee question, as you pray for virtue to rise and thirst for justice, peace and harmony between faith in God and reason in our world.

Until the treatment of asylum seekers in transit countries such as Indonesia is enhanced, we Australians must expect that some of the world's neediest refugees will engage people smugglers and come within reach of our authorities. For as long as they do not excessively skew our migration program, we should allow those who are proven to be genuine refugees to settle permanently and promptly so they may get on with their lives and make their contribution to our national life.

Let's not forget the honest assessment of immigration detention centres by Professor Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year: 'You could almost describe them as factories for producing mental illness and mental disorder'. Community partnerships with government could assist with the accommodation and transition needs of those asylum seekers most likely to succeed in their claims. In hindsight, we know that proposals such as turning back the boats, temporary protection visas for those who will be refugees for many years to come, and the Pacific solution are not only unprincipled; they fail to stem the tide nor to reduce the successful claims.

We always need to ask, 'Why is it right to treat the honest, unvisaed boat person more harshly than the visaed airplane passenger who fails to declare their intention to apply for asylum?' If the answer is based only on consequences, then ask, 'Would not the same harsh treatment of the visaed airplane passenger have the same or even greater effect in deterring arrivals by onshore asylum seekers?' The Qantas 747 does not evoke the same response as the leaky boat, does it?

The Gillard Government's proposal for a regional processing centre in East Timor was unprincipled and unworkable, as is its proposed Malaysia solution, and as would be a simple restoration of the Pacific Solution by an Abbott government. The Malaysia solution proposes a serious moral recalibration of the acceptable bottom line wanting to move us from offshore processing to offshore dumping. At least the bona fide refugee under John Howard's Pacific solution was assured eventual resettlement in a third country, usually Australia or New Zealand.

Under the Malaysia solution the bona fide refugee would be sent to the end of a queue which is 95,000 long. The Abbott Opposition has now conceded that boats can be towed back only with the full co-operation of the Indonesians, and even then there would be serious questions about safety at sea, invoking our obligations under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea Convention. Philip Ruddock has conceded that the Pacific Solution second time around would not be sufficient to deter hazardous boat journeys from Indonesia.

The long-term work still needs to be done in Indonesia which is the main transit country to Australia. Both sides of politics know that the vulnerable will continue to arrive on our shores uninvited. We need to maintain the faith of Petro Georgiou who told our Parliament in his valedictory speech:

"I believed that politics was a tough business. There were two dominant parties, they were in conflict, they had power and they had resources. They were strong and evenly matched. They punched and they counterpunched, and sometimes low blows were landed. In my view, however, scapegoating the vulnerable was never part of the political game. I still believe this."

I pine for the day when one of our Jesuit Alumni in the Australian Parliament could make a similar speech. Let's not forget that it is only because we are an island nation continent that we can entertain the absurd notion that we can seal our borders from refugee flows. All borders are porous in our globalised world. We need to manage those borders firmly and decently. That is the challenge. At the very least, we must remain committed to processing and resettling those bona fide refugees who reach our shores regardless of the co-operative regional solutions we put in place to deter their arrival in the first place.