5 October 2023
A Pastoral Message concerning the Referendum, 14 October 2023
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Peace be with you.
Next Saturday, 14 October 2023, all Australians over the age of eighteen and who are on the electoral role will be required to vote in a Federal referendum.
The proposition on which you will be asked to vote Yes or No concerns not only a constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples but also includes the establishment of a formalised Voice which, at the least, will be a body with the authority to speak to parliament and the executive branch of government.
The question which you are being asked to consider and decide upon is no small thing. That there have been vigorous campaigns urging us to vote one way or the other should give us pause for thought. That there is no single stance even on the part of indigenous people tells us that this is no simple matter.
Unfortunately, quite complex issues have been reduced to the level of slogans, and no matter how gracious, clever or catchy, slogans are no substitute for clear thinking. I would further suggest that uncivil behaviour and name-calling achieve nothing.
I have read open letters and statements from a number of religious and secular leaders. However, what is most often lacking is any reference to the prayerful seeking of God’s guidance as we prepare to vote.
The day before the referendum is a Friday. In our Byzantine Melkite Catholic tradition, Friday is a customary day of prayer and fasting. As an indicator of how significant this matter is, I would urge all who will vote, to keep next Friday as a day of additional prayer and penance asking God to grant us the gift of his guidance.
With my paternal blessing and with prayers assured.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
✠ Robert Rabbat Bishop of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy
of Australia, New Zealand and All Oceania