By Amanda Murthy and Josh Low
“Alleluia! Give thanks to Lord for he is good, for his faithful love endures forever.” – Psalms 136:1
The Perth Catholic community came together to give thanks and praise to God as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church marked 40 years of its presence and contribution in Western Australia with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at St Mary’s Cathedral on Friday 23 August.
Originally dedicated to Saint Andrew, the parish and community are now under the patronage of Our Lady of the Annunciation.
The Byzantine Hierarchical Liturgy, rich in tradition and symbolism, included four Catholic Church rites – Melkite, Ukrainian, Maronite, and Roman – who came together for the unique occasion.
Serving the Divine Liturgy was Melkite Catholic Eparch of Australia and New Zealand, Most Reverend Bishop Robert Rabbat, who was joined by representatives of the other Catholic Churches, which included Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, Fr Peter Whitely VG, Monsignor Michael Keating, Fr Ibrahim Sultan VG, Cathedral Dean Fr Sean Fernandez, Fr Elias Kilzi, Fr Kevin Cummins, Fr Elie Francis, Fr John Howard, and Fr Richard Charlwood.
In his address, Bishop Rabbat took the time to express his heartfelt gratitude towards the kindness and fraternal solidarity shown by the Archdiocese of Perth.
“Our Melkite community in Western Australia was doubly blessed in that from the beginning of his ministry as Emeritus Archbishop of Perth Barry Hickey was both a friend and brother and always near at hand. For this I am profoundly grateful,” Bishop Rabbat said.
“We have been especially fortunate that his successor, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, has been of like mind. Both archbishops have taken a genuine pastoral interest in our community in Perth, and for this, we are ever in their debt.
“The kindness and fraternal solidarity shown to us by the Roman Catholic Clergy and Faithful in Perth over the past 40 years are truly expressions of the love which unites the Eucharistic Community which is the Catholic Church, and we look forward towards strengthening this beautiful friendship over the many years to come, under the watchful eyes of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the intercession of His Mother, the Theotokos.”
Bishop Rabbat added that because the word “Catholic” derives from the Greek adjective “katholikos” – which means “universal” – we are all called as part of the one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, to unite and stand firm in the faith together, especially in turbulent times.
“Joy has brought us together into this blessed place of this Cathedral, where we celebrate our 40th anniversary,” he expressed.
“We do hope that we will be, despite all the turbulence we may be facing, especially in Australia where sadly dark forces have been knocking on the door, willing to stand up for the faith.
“So if you’re a good Christian; if you’re baptised and come to Church to encounter God and receive Holy Communion, you must go out into the world and proclaim the Good News.”
He added that doing so, however, was not without difficulty.
“Our Lord said that whoever chooses to follow me has to carry the cross. He meant that you have to stand firm [in the faith].
“The intercession of the saints and the Theotokos is what keeps us alive, and we can look to our martyrs for their example and love for the faith.”
Bishop Rabbat shared some of the Melkite’s history, before referring to the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Creed.
“In 1891, Fr Silvanos Mansour, the first Melkite priest to minister in Australia arrived in Sydney. By 1893, the community began construction of the first Melkite Church in Waterloo, Sydney, and which was dedicated in 1895,” he stated.
“This predated any other eastern Church building, Catholic or Orthodox, in Australia.
“The Symbol of Faith, when we say “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” is a belief that the Melkite community in Australia holds dear.
“In Perth, as elsewhere in Australia, we not only say it but we have experienced the joy of being an integral part of the Household of the Faith. We have much for which to be thankful after all these years.
“I urge our Faithful to be positive citizens of this State, and to be active members of the Catholic Community,” Bishop Rabbat concluded.
After the Liturgy, the community gathered at the Macedonian Cultural Centre in Balcatta for a Middle Eastern-Australian dinner and fellowship to continue the celebrations.