Page 1295 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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Tuesday, 5 April 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional owners, and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.


MR SPEAKER: At the outset may I welcome members of the ACT deaf and hearing-impaired community. I would also like to draw members’ attention to a person from that community who will be providing sign for the comments of the Assembly today.

Death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs): I move:

That the Assembly expresses its profound sorrow at the death of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, head of the Catholic church for 26 years, and tenders its heartfelt sympathy to the religious community.

For more than two and a half decades Pope John Paul II was one of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders. During a full and remarkable life he saw first-hand the horrors of war and Nazism. He opposed the communist oppression of Eastern Europe and his native Poland, and also spoke of the evils of unfettered capitalism. He was a champion of the right of every person to food and freedom, and promoted greater understanding between faiths.

As the first non-Italian pope in almost half a millennium and the first Slavic pope, his elevation to the papacy surprised many but, in retrospect, it was an inspired choice by the cardinals who selected him. He became the most travelled pope in the church’s history, and its most accessible, giving audiences to more than 16 million pilgrims.

There is no doubt that his legacy in many areas is a controversial one, both inside and outside the church. For instance, he maintained and even strengthened the church’s conservative stance on abortion, contraception, biotechnology and the place of women in the church; but, over the years, there was much to admire in his adherence to justice and in his deep moral conviction. Though badly affected by ill health in his final years the pope was outspoken in his opposition to war—in particular the invasion of Iraq, which he criticised to the last. He described war as “a defeat of humanity”.

The pope was outspoken too on behalf of the world’s indigenous peoples. Speaking in Alice Springs in 1986, Pope John Paul II called explicitly for land rights for indigenous Australians. He told the assembled faithful that, from the earliest years of European settlement, men like Archbishop Polding, who was the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, had opposed the legal fiction adopted by the settlers that this land was “terra nullius”—nobody’s country.

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