(top) Apostolic Nuncio His Excellency Archbishop Tito Yllana, Jewry Director Peter Wertheim, AM, Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra and Father Varghese Vavolil at the ACU Interfaith Breakfast at the Old Parliament.   (bottom) Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Apostolic Nuncio Tito  Yllana at the Interfaith Breakfast. (top) Apostolic Nuncio His Excellency Archbishop Tito Yllana, Jewry Director Peter Wertheim, AM, Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra and Father Varghese Vavolil at the ACU Interfaith Breakfast at the Old Parliament. (bottom) Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Apostolic Nuncio Tito Yllana at the Interfaith Breakfast.

The Inaugural Federal Interfaith Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast By Matthew Carolan

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) hosted its first Federal Interfaith Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday 17 June 2015 at Old Parliament House in Canberra. It was a privilege to be invited to this auspicious event in the iconic Old Parliament House at 6.30 in the morning in the cold Canberra winter.
Religious leaders from 31 of Australia’s major religions attended the breakfast including representatives from Baha’I, Buddhist, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. The Catholic Archbishops Tito Yllana (newly appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Australia is a Filipino) and Christopher Prowse of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn were also there. Several members of Parliament were present including former Prime Minsters Kevin Rudd and John Howard.
The Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Member of Parliament the Honourable Bill Shorten addressed the gathering. The leader of the opposition spoke about the gathering as a ‘celebration of unity of modern multicultural Australia’, and that ‘as Australians we stand beneath one flag’. He finished by saying that we all have a duty of respect, of compassion and of love to each other.
The Prime Minister begun by saying that ‘this is an interesting development from the traditional Parliament Christian breakfast…this is now gathering of leaders from all faiths. We need faith now more than ever’. He also recounted his time training as a Roman Catholic seminarian before moving onto his personal experiences talking with people in the most difficult circumstances – facing a terminal illness, and other life threatening situations. To these people he spoke about faith, whether in a higher power, or in their families and loved ones, that life means something. He made a pun about this event and another function he was going to that evening…the mid winter press gallery ball. He said that ‘This is an interesting day for Parliament: We are having breakfast with people who try to build us up then we will be having dinner with the group that try to drag us down. Guess which group I would rather be with?’
Representatives from seven religions led the prayers. It was not surprising that they all carried similar themes of love, compassion and thanks.
Dr Stephan Kerkyasharian AO, President of the Anti-discrimination Board of NSW addressed the gathering with a talk on ‘Faith and Leadership in Modern Australia’. He reflected on the willingness and understanding that the faith leaders show one another by meeting together, but that this hasn’t translated down to their congregations, not only in Australia, but around the world. Dr Kerkyasharian put this forward that this is the next step or challenge each faith must focus on.
The ACU was opened in 1991 and has seven campuses across Australia as well as living quarters in Rome, for students wishing to visit as part of their studies. The University offers opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate study, and research opportunities in the fields of education, health, commerce, the humanities, the sciences and technologies, law, and the creative arts.

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