Archbishop of Melbourne Peter A Comensoli responded on X (formerly known as Twitter) to the news that Victorian Parliament may be considering a change to the 100-year-old practice of starting parliament sitting days with the Lord’s Prayer.
In recent comments made to reporters, Premier of Victoria Jacinta Allen conceded that this change could be on the table, citing an increase in diverse expressions of faith and culture.
‘We are seeing greater cultural diversity—I think it’s important that we do look at reflecting that in our parliamentary practices,’ she said.
Discussion of the issue was sparked by the decision of two Labor MPs to sit out the prayer because of Pope Francis’ recent remarks calling for a global ban on surrogacy.
One of the Labor MPs, Frankston’s Paul Edbrooke, commented, ‘My personal view is that parliament is a workplace and I don’t see a need for it. A lot of people see the separation of church and state as a good thing.’
Archbishop Comensoli took issue with the characterisation of parliament as a ‘workplace’, saying, ‘The sitting of Parliament is not about “going to work”. Parliamentarians, when exercising their elected responsibilities, are not simply “doing a job”. The offering of the Lord’s Prayer at the commencement of parliamentary sittings has nothing to do with “someone’s workplace”.’
‘This simple prayer—commonly held across traditions—is a community call to honour God, so as to love and serve others before ourselves,’ he wrote.
Archbishop Comensoli pointed to the many contributions made by people of faith to the life of Australian democracy.
‘[The Lord’s Prayer] embodies the deep contributions thousands have made to our democracy and its institutions, and is a strong reminder that our parliamentary representation is not the ultimate authority for building a just and caring society.’
‘At a time when respect for our common life is facing great challenges across the State of Victoria, proposals by our elected representatives to abandon the Lord’s Prayer seem inward-looking and unenlightening,’ he said.
Currently, the Lord’s Prayer is recited in parliaments around Australian except for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Melbourne Catholic28 February 2024
Melbourne Catholic27 February 2024