Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Denis Hart, has last week called for an end to the offshore detention of refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.
In what he described as “one of the greatest crises of our day,” Archbishop Hart lamented the current situation faced by people forced from their own countries by war, persecution or poverty and forced to live without a home, without safety and often separated from their families.
“Pope Francis has called on Catholics to welcome such vulnerable people as our brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Hart stated.
“In Australia, we do not have to directly meet the responsibilities that many other nations bear. But we do bear the shame of the expulsion and harsh treatment of the people who sought our protection only to be detained on Nauru and Manus Island.”
Archbishop Hart went on to highlight the way in which International agencies have reacted to the conditions under which these people live, as well as the effects on their health, spirits and self-respect, underscoring that they have been appalled by what they have seen.
“Pope Francis, to whom people detained on Manus Island have written, has also expressed his deep concern. The human costs on the detainees are mounting by the day.”
Archbishop Hart also focused on the Australian Catholic Bishops’ opposition to the deplorable detention of those he called “our brothers and sisters on Nauru and Manus Island.”
“While recognising the effort of the Government to find a solution, we say that enough is enough. We call on the Government to bring offshore detainees to Australia while awaiting further decisions on their future.
“We endorse the campaign to ‘Bring Them Here’ to Australia. We pledge the help of our Catholic communities and institutions to welcome and support these refugees when they arrive, including Catholic health, education and social services.
As the end to the Jubilee Year of Mercy approaches, Archbishop Hart stated that it is time to cultivate the works of mercy and to harvest its fruits as a Church.
“The Australian Catholic Bishops are working with the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) advisory group, which brings together Catholic peak bodies across education, health, welfare, and the broader church along with key national Catholic organisations.
“CAPSA is ready and willing to lead a coordinated approach to support the men, women and children currently on Nauru and Manus Island as they arrive in Australia. Many parishes and local communities are also ready to assist,” Archbishop Hart said.