The Spirit of Things

with Rachael Kohn
on Sunday 20/10/2002

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Australia's Sacred Sites Part 4


St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Melbourne

Standing proud and tall, overlooking Melbourne's State Parliament and financial district, the spires of St Patrick's Cathedral are a reminder that Australia's migrants have always brought their religion with them. From the days of the First Fleet, immigrant religion has been crucial in anchoring communities in their new land. The great blue-stone Irish Catholic Cathedral of St Patrick's typifies this type of sacred place. The current Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, walks with us through the cathedral where he will be laid to rest when he dies. Sydney's Archbishop George Pell discusses the place of the Catholic cathedral today. A group of pilgrims and "spiritual tourists" share their views.

Details or Transcript

Hello and welcome to the Bluestone Basilica, St Patrick's Cathedral, the fourth in our Sacred Sites series on The Spirit of Things, Radio National. I'm Rachael Kohn.

The village of Melbourne was only 15 years old in 1850 when its first Catholic bishop, James Goold, laid the foundation stone of the original church that stood on the present site of St Patrick's Cathedral.

The Gold Rush soon swelled the population, and a bigger church was envisioned. In 1858, William Wilkinson Wardell, the government architect, and a leader in the English Gothic Revival, was commissioned. And St Patrick's Cathedral would be larger than any Gothic Revival church built in Victorian England.

The cathedral took almost 40 years and 200,000 pounds to build, but by its consecration in 1897, it was still without its magnificent spires. They would be added by Melbourne's longest serving Archbishop, Daniel Mannix. In 1970, St Patrick's Cathedral was conferred the privilege status of minor basilica. It hasn't rested on its laurels. In the late 1990s, Archbishop George Pell who we'll be speaking to later in the program, supervised extensive renovations.

Today, the opulence and the sanctity of Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral is enjoyed by the faithful as wall as by the occasional spiritual tourist.

I'm from Thailand, I think it is a beautiful cathedral and is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have seen. The atmosphere is quite different from the temples in Thailand. People came to the cathedral to pray and sometimes they do some offerings and stuff like that, but in Thailand they do the same thing but maybe in different ways.

Are you Christian?

No, I'm not, I'm Buddhist.

Is being here a spiritual experience for you, even as a Buddhist?

Yes, it might be, I may say so. I'm feeling very calm here.

Rachael Kohn: Our guide through St Patrick's Cathedral today is the current Archbishop, Denis Hart.

Archbishop Hart this grand cathedral had quite humble beginnings, didn't it?

Archbishop Denis Hart: Rachael, it did. When Bishop James Goold was appointed the first Bishop of Melbourne in October 1848, he came to Melbourne and he found that mass was being celebrated in a rather ramshackle, weatherboard private house which was on this site. So immediately he set about building a church, and the first architect, Samuel Jackson, recommended that there be a freestone church.

And that was begun in 1850. However already in 1853 it was foreseen that that church wasn't big enough, and so they started to build in bluestone. It's significant of course that five years later, in 1858, the idea of the church not just being the second church for Melbourne, took over, because Melbourne's first church was St Francis down in Lonsdale Street, the tree that grew in the grounds of St Francis church is made into the archbishop's chair now. This was just the second church.

But then the decision was made that we really needed a cathedral, and when you think within 20 years the population of Melbourne came from something like 5,000 to 17,000 or 18,000, it's a remarkable development. By 1858 the need for a cathedral was foreseen and William Wilkinson Wardell, one of the great disciples of the Gothic architect Pugin was employed and he was working for the government here, and was responsible for a number of famous buildings in Melbourne, and later I'm very happy to say, St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. And Wardell's concept was that there would be a really grand cathedral.

Rachael Kohn: And it seems to have reflected the great medieval style of churches, a kind of gigantism that this cathedral certainly does exhibit.

Archbishop Denis Hart: I think this cathedral certainly shows a spiritual reaching to heaven. The whole thing of the Gothic style with its high lofty arches, with its spires, I think shows our aspirations to reach towards God in heaven, a God whom we can know partially, but who is great and wonderful, and the first settlers here brought from Europe a searching for God and this building reflects it in a very wonderful, beautiful way.

Rachael Kohn: Well we're standing in the very, very long nave, and above it, looking down on us, has to be the most beautiful stained-glass window in Australia I think.

Archbishop Denis Hart: I think this is a magnificent window. It looks down upon the cathedral, the length of the cathedral of course is 310 feet.

This magnificent window you can see it's an ascension window, it was installed in 1867 and was made by Hardman Powell of London and Liverpool, and it was a memorial to Dr Patrick Bonaventure Gagin, who was Melbourne's first priest. And in the window you can see right in the centre, the ascension of Jesus, he's rising up above the Apostles as the Acts of the Apostles itself says, and down at the bottom you can see, you can recognise each of the Apostles two by two in all of the panels, except of course for Judas who's not there.

And then Our Lady Mary, the mother of God, is in the centre and above them on either side of Jesus as he ascends, are groups of saints and martyrs to show that Jesus goes to return to his father and he takes with him all those who have led jut lives and whose love of God is something to which we look up and which we find is encouragement and an inspiration. And the colours are absolutely beautiful.

You can see right at the top in the centre Jesus is the Pascal Lamb, the angels with trumpets, the eye is just drawn dramatically to the window and the glorious reds and greens and blues on a summer's day bathe this whole cathedral in light. And yet it's probably made more significant by the fact that not all the windows in the cathedral are stained glass windows. The majority of them are cathedral gold, and that gives a wonderful golden light that shines on people as they pray and as they worship, and it gives a wonderful atmosphere to the cathedral.


Rachael Kohn: Archbishop Hart we really are standing upon Melbourne's Catholic history aren't we, at this very moment?

Archbishop Denis Hart: We are at this moment. We're right above the crypt where the Archbishops are buried, although because they were buried very early, Archbishop Goold is buried in the Holy Souls chapel which is over behind us, and then over on the other side where the choir used to sing in the Sacred Heart chapel, Archbishop Carr is buried. And when Archbishop Mannix was becoming very old, he died in November 1963, just before that, they excavated this crypt on which we stand, and it's quite a small tiled room and in it are buried Archbishop Daniel Mannix, the most famous of our Archbishops who was Archbishop here from 1917 till 1963.

And the next Archbishop, Archbishop Justin Simmons, who was the first Australian to be an Archbishop, only lasted for four years because he'd been waiting since 1942. And then Cardinal James Knox is also buried there. He was in Melbourne for six years and then was called to the Vatican and was made Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and on the day that the Pope was shot, he was to be announced as the President of the Pope's Council for the Family. Well that announcement of course was delayed, and finally he was appointed to there, and when he died, he asked that his body be brought back to Melbourne.

And these tablets here on the wall, done in bluestone, give something of the contribution to the church that each of the Archbishops have made. And there's a coat of arms on each of then, and the Mannix one has something which I think would be very famous, the profile of the well-loved and revered Archbishop with his his little cap, and with the characteristic face looking out into the distance. Many of us as young people coming up Bourke Street in the St Patrick's Day march, remember that as the old man sat in his car to take the salute, that same looking out on us was there, and it gives me a great enthusiasm for the future.

On Friday night last the remains of the late Archbishop of Melbourne, the Reverend Daniel Mannix were brought to St Patrick's Cathedral. Since then, a conservative estimate would be that 250,000 people have passed by to pay their respects to him. Already the cathedral is crowded for the solemn requiem mass to be celebrated for him this morning.

The cathedral itself will be a memorial to this great man. He completed the spires of this beautiful building and they will remain a memorial to him for all time.

Grouped outside the cathedral is the procession, headed by the altar servers and the choir of Stat Patrick's Cathedral, and the clergy from all over Australia.

To look down the cathedral today, to look down at the casket lying before the high altar, brings back countless memories of His Grace the Archbishop, Dr Mannix. Some very interesting things have come out in his life. One point in particular must strike notice. There was in 1919 when an epidemic was on and Archbishop Mannix offered assistance of the Catholic nuns and brothers to help as hospital attendants. The government accepted but the offer was refused because some citizens felt that Catholics shouldn't help in these occasions. That pattern has completely changed. In 1963 we had tremendous harmony between Catholics and non-Catholics and Archbishop Mannix has done much to bring that about.


Rachael Kohn: Archbishop Hart, without being too morbid, is the tradition of burying archbishops in the cathedral going to be continued?

Archbishop Denis Hart: I'm sure it is. Archbishop Pell seems to have escaped to Sydney, but I know the first time I came into the cathedral after I was appointed, I looked over on my right and I saw the chair where I'll sit in life, and then I looked over here on this side and saw the place where my body will lie when I die, as far as I know. But I think I'm in good company.

Melbourne is a wonderful city and the faith that's illustrated in this cathedral, it's beautiful colours, the obvious emphasis on prayer, there are always people praying here, gives me encouragement that I'm part of a great history and a great tradition, and this cathedral does reflect it well.

Rachael Kohn: Well speaking of history, and we're walking towards the chapels here, probably the most beloved chapel might be the one that is dedicated to blessed Mary McKillop.

Archbishop Denis Hart: Yes, certainly since she was made blessed Mary McKillop in 1995 many people go and pray in the chapel of St Joseph, which now contains her statue, and it's a reminder that God invites all sorts of people, even someone who's Australian to be a great leader. And the older part of the cathedral was more simple, more 13th century.

By the time they got down to this end of the cathedral, it was begun remember, the whole cathedral in 1858, by 1897 the cathedral was ready for consecration, and the simpler approach had given way to the French what we call cheviot of seven chapels, the blunt straight end of an English cathedral gave way to the rounded end with chapels fanning out. And the third of these chapels is the Chapel of St Joseph.

Rachael Kohn: That's Archbishop Denis Hart, our tour guide today in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral, the fourth Sacred Site in our Series on Australia's Sacred Sites.


Rachael Kohn: From Egyptian tombs to the cathedral walls, gold has been the substance of choice to adorn the holy and sacred places, and so it is, I discovered, with St Patrick's Cathedral.

Well Archbishop Hart, here we are now at the first chapel, and I think it must be the most glorious of them.

Archbishop Denis Hart: I certainly think it's the favourite one. It's the one where I came to pray on the night that I was installed Archbishop.

When I came into the cathedral, the first place I came was here, and it's the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, the gold tabernacle door with the pelican pecking at its breast and feeding its young was one of the last things that Wardell designed for the cathedral, and it wasn't installed until 1900. The altar itself is made of beautiful alabaster, but there are three mosaics on the front, two angels and a chalice and host and then the eye is drawn up behind the altar, to the scenes of Jesus at the Last Supper, and on the cross, scenes from the Old Testament, almost the whole of ancient history and of Christian history is gathered together in the Eucharist.

And the beautiful windows in this chapel, were brought to Australia for the International Exhibition in 1861. And they were bought by Archbishop Goold because they were so appropriate for the cathedral, and as a matter of fact when we did our restoration leading up to 1997, 100 years later, those windows were sent home for restoration, and they've done a magnificent job. It's so much clearer than it used to be when I was first a young priest here in the cathedral 30 years ago.

Rachael Kohn: Well the chapel is certainly reminiscent of many of the glorious ones that one finds in European cathedral, it's as rich and ornate and encrusted with gold.

Archbishop Denis Hart: It has a warmth and the stencilling that doesn't appear in the other parts of the cathedral, but is around the seven chapels, has been beautifully restored. The golds and reds, the olive colour, it's all been brought back to its most wonderful condition, and this has given a warmth and a light to the cathedral that seemed to have faded over the last 100 years.


Rachael Kohn: Archbishop Hart, we're standing in front of the chapel that is really an emblem to the Irish ancestry of Catholics in Melbourne.

Archbishop Denis Hart: It is, it's the chapel of St Brigid and the busts of other Irish saints are set into the part behind the altar. It's a reminder that the community at that time was very small, very Irish, but had a great identity and love of God and love of religion.

And when the cathedral was consecrated in 1897 the ceremony was very, very long, it was done earlier in the week and then on the Saturday when the cathedral was open, people just came thronging in, and I'm sure this chapel would have been somewhere here they came, and in the morning, the beautiful light through the windows, the statue of St Brigid lights up and it has a light and a hope about it that I think is really a symptom of what the Irish have brought to the faith here in Melbourne.

Rachael Kohn: Well there are other reminiscences in this cathedral, that is the Book of Kells is represented, is it not, in the mosaics?

Archbishop Denis Hart: Yes. The sanctuary or the part around the altar, which was constructed originally in 1897 and consecrated, was a long, narrow area which began only when the seven chapels began.

After the Second Vatican Council, from 1962 to 1965 the church wanted to bring the action of the mass and the reading of God's word much closer to the people, and in many big cathedrals like this, the altar was moved forward to the place where the nave, the centre part of the cathedral, and the transepts, the cross-beam intersect. And here in St Patrick's, in 1970, a first tentative move was made to place the altar and the area around it, the Bishop's chair, the lectern for the reading of God's word, in the centre so that the people surround it.

Just before 1997 this was then done in marble and four beautiful mosaics depicting Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from the Book of Kells were inserted into the marble, and it gives a marvellous illustration of what we do when we worship God, that at the altar God acts to save us, but we are nourished, and those mosaics around the altar, show how we are nourished by God's word, God's living word in the bible.

Rachael Kohn: Well that must have been a massive task, as well as a very expensive one. How did the Melbourne community or indeed the Catholic community of Australia fund this enormous restoration?

Archbishop Denis Hart: From 1991 to 1997 we had a public appeal and we were supported by the State and Commonwealth government, we were supported by people in business and commerce, and above all, we were supported by the people of the archdiocese, and it became a real time when what had been done in a temporary fashion in 1970 was done permanently.

Tremendous work was done on the spires and on the stonework externally, and then an upgrade of everything that was needed for the cathedral, so that it is perhaps at its most beautiful time now. I've never come in here where there's no-one praying here. Parishes, schools, groups, sometimes three and four times on a Sunday, come in to use this beautiful cathedral because it's a real focal point for the people of Melbourne. And then of course there are many people come as tourists and visitors and are uplifted by the beauty that's here.

Rachael Kohn: So the restoration wasn't physical alone, it was also spiritual?

Archbishop Denis Hart: It was a wonderful spiritual time, and Archbishop Frank Little, very courageously started the restoration, helped by Monsignor Bill McCarthy who was the Dean of the cathedral then, and they had a remarkable team who completed a $10-million task in six years, on time, on budget.

Rachael Kohn: Remarkable, a miracle in itself.

Archbishop Denis Hart: Because people are filled with love and filled with hope and the cathedral is such a special part of our heritage.


Rachael Kohn: Well Archbishop Hart, I think we're coming to the west door, and just about to step on a commemorative plaque to John Paul II.

Archbishop Denis Hart: That's right, in the great cathedrals the altar is always at the east, and the main entrance door is at the west. And here on the 28th November 1986 Pope John Paul II paid his visit to the cathedral for an audience with the priests of Australia.

I was here on that day, I remember it was a marvellous moment when he came and prayed at the tombs of the Archbishops that we've seen, prayed at the altar of the blessed sacrament before addressing and praying with the priests. And this medallion reminds us of course that in the Catholic tradition the Pope is the successor of St Peter, and he helps and encourages us in the faith. And only on the 29th June, over on this wall, is a picture of me receiving the pallium from Pope John Paul II, and the pallium is a white band of wool that you wear over your vestments around your shoulders, and it's a sign of the unity of the people of Melbourne with Pope John Paul II as he visited us in 1986.

Rachael Kohn: Well as we are right at the entrance, why don't we walk outside?


Archbishop Denis Hart: This entrance porch was only added when the spires were completed from 1937 to 1939.


Rachael Kohn: The ever-present sound of the tram squeaking by.

Archbishop Denis Hart: Something that's uniquely Melbourne. And we're standing at the entrance of the cathedral and we look straight back across Parliament House, and if I were on the other side coming up Bourke Street, you'd see the spires of the cathedral.

When we asked for a grant of land in July 1847 I don't think either the government authorities or the people of Melbourne ever guessed what a marvellous building would be here, and you can see the parliament, and then above the spires of the cathedral, to show that in our society, human endeavour and God go hand in hand, and we're very lucky to have this beautiful position for our cathedral. I think it's an inspiration to the city and I think that people who visit here in such numbers do find it a real moment of refreshment and spirituality, of beauty and encouragement.

Rachael Kohn: Archbishop Denis Hart on the steps of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne on The Spirit of Things Radio National.


Rachael Kohn: Outside St Patrick's the trams squeak by, but inside, another world awaits the pilgrim, the tourist and the tour guide, but sometimes the distinctions are not always clear.

Woman: I feel it's a very worthwhile thing to do because we are giving people from overseas, people who come to a great church like this, we make them welcome, we tell them the history. We cover the architecture, and as I said, the history of the church.

Rachael Kohn: Is this your favourite church?

Woman: Oh yes, definitely, yes.

Woman: I said it's more beautiful than the Vatican.

Rachael Kohn: When you come here, as you are here today, what does it make you feel like?

Woman: Awe-inspired, yes very emotional, really, it is. I don't care whether you've got religion or not, it would have to have an impression on you, and it's just awe-inspiring.

Woman: Emotional, that's what it makes me feel.

Rachael Kohn: Would you encourage any of your friends to come here?

Woman: Yes, definitely.

Woman: And we'd come back with them. Definitely come back with them.

Woman: I've seen St Peter's Basilica which is magnificent, but this is on its own too.

Woman: I have been here, yes, but only very - I didn't really know anything about the background of it, so I thought today was a good day to come along and find out. It's beautiful isn't it, absolutely grand, yes.

Woman: It is emotion I suppose, you know, I was married in a Catholic church, I'm a Catholic, but just the way it affects me.

Rachael Kohn: Its spires once dominated the Melbourne skyline, but since the ever-encroaching skyscrapers, St Patrick's Cathedral has lost some of its former presence.

But in 2000, the year of the Great Jubilee, St Patrick's saw the completion of an extensive sculpture garden and surrounds, called the Pilgrim Path. It was conceived by the then Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell. Now the Archbishop of Sydney, he spoke to me about St Patrick's.


Archbishop George Pell: It's an elegant and austere building, has classic Gothic lines. I think it is a good place for worship and it is a good place to realise that one of the central claims of Christianity is access to the transcendent.

Rachael Kohn: In the early 1960s Archbishop Mannix would have been close to 50 years as Archbishop of that great cathedral. Did he impress you as a young man?

Archbishop George Pell: Oh yes, undoubtedly he was one of my heroes. My father wasn't a Catholic but my mother was a strong Irish Australian Catholic, an aunt of mine, she was Patricia Mannix Bourke, other cousins in that family had Mannix in their names.

There was a portrait of Mannix in the dining room in my grandparents' house. We lived there for about ten years, the first ten years of my life. It was the time of the '50s, the time of the Cold War, the sufferings of the church in Central and Eastern Europe, it was a time of the Labor Party split, so yes, Mannix loomed very large in my mind as a teenager.

Rachael Kohn: In 1974 Pope Paul VI declared St Patrick's a minor basilica. What does that mean?

Archbishop George Pell: It recognises its special status, has to meet certain criteria, the liturgy, the music, I think has to be some element that it's a centre of pilgrimage, but there's no doubt on an Australian scale St Patrick's certainly should rank as a minor, or I'm tempted to say a major basilica.

Rachael Kohn: Do you think many Australians actually realise that it is a basilica?

Archbishop George Pell: Probably not, and I'm not sure that it makes a great deal of practical difference, but it is an international acknowledgement of what a treasure we have in the cathedral.

Interestingly, I grew up in Ballarat where the cathedral there is also constructed in bluestone, so I grew up thinking that bluestone cathedrals were quite common, but actually they're very rare. Coming up to Sydney where we have a beautiful sandstone cathedral, the sandstone produces an easier, softer image. There is an austerity about St Patrick's Cathedral and I think it's probably also some reflection of the style of Archbishop Mannix who I believe removed quite a number of the statues from the cathedral.

Rachael Kohn: Why did he do that?

Archbishop George Pell: Perhaps because he thought that they might have been a little bit of a distraction from the central devotion to Christ and to our lady and to the central importance of the Eucharist.

Rachael Kohn: Have you ever felt that St Patrick's is gloomy because of the dark stone and the austerity?

Archbishop George Pell: I was very pleased that the lighting was significantly improved in the recent renovations. At night it could be a bit gloomy and inaccessible. I would prefer the word 'austere' to gloomy.

Rachael Kohn: Well let's talk about those renovations. By the time you were Archbishop of St Patrick's Cathedral, they had already begun I understand.

Archbishop George Pell: Yes, the major renovations are to the credit of my predecessor Archbishop Little. One of the advantages of building in bluestone, and it was only done in bluestone because the Catholics in Melbourne couldn't afford sandstone, but it lasts much better than sandstone. So the renovation in Melbourne was completed more or less at the cost of $10-million. In Sydney we'd probably spent approaching $20-million and we've got quite a lot to go.

One of my ambitions was to, and it will be here in Sydney too, to make the cathedral something more than an Irish Australian centre of worship, because the Catholic community is no longer just Irish Australian.

So in the forecourt of the cathedral in Melbourne we have these Aboriginal motifs, we do have a magnificent statue of Mannix, done by the English sculptor Nigel Boonham, I think it's a very, very fine piece of work. But around the side we have two beautiful bronze pieces of the two patrons of Italy, Catherine of Siena and Francis of Assisi, because Italian Australians are the second major group of Catholics in Melbourne, and we come up to that side entrance where most of the tourists come, St Patrick's Pilgrim Way it has been dubbed there by the cathedral authorities, and we have a very, very beautiful fountain of water coming down there, and one of my favourite images from the scriptures, and it's very suitable for Australia because we understand the importance of water, is to speak of the streams of living water.

Now in the Book of Revelation that's one of the images for eternity, the streams of living water coming from the throne of the lamb. So at the top there is in a beautiful bowl there, there is a figure of the Pascal lamb, and then there are three or four or five quotations from Old and New Testament, emphasising the imagery of water in the role of religion, bringing human flourishing and bringing life after death. And the whole gardens were remodelled and replanted, and for direct access for tourists up the Pilgrim Way. I'm very, very proud of that particular addition.

Rachael Kohn: Yes, it's also marked by a beautiful poem by James McAuley, was that your choice?

Archbishop George Pell: Yes it was. I've long had a great admiration for McAuley. I think that's a particularly beautiful Australian piece of poetry. Even the scripture quotes, I ran them past a whole range of people, learned people, but I also very explicitly ran them past devout Catholics who weren't at all learned, just to see how - we had a few others that were possibilities, which ones they preferred. I was always particularly pleased to see so many of the tourists standing looking at McAauley's poetry or looking puzzling at the texts. And even with one of the texts, there was some suggestion we might have to put up a warning sign that people from one of the little fountains might think they were being invited to receive miracles there. Now we never had to do that, because I didn't think it was a realistic danger at all. But people have, regularly read the texts and ponder over them.

Incarnate word in whom all nature lives,

Cast flame upon the earth.

Raise up contemplatives among us

Men who walk within the fire of ceaseless prayer, impetuous desire.

Set pools of silence in this thirsty land.

Rachael Kohn: Speaking of Australians, did you at all consider the possibility of having the first Australian saint in the form of sculpture of represented some way, Mary McKillop?

Archbishop George Pell: We certainly did, and I commissioned a bronze head of Mary McKillop which is in the St Joseph's chapel at the cathedral. I was in two minds as to whether it should be outside or in the cathedral, and it was put to me that it would be better to have it inside to encourage people to pray before the image. I'm not sure that we really got that right.

We got two copies made of the bronze head of Mary McKillop and one we put outside in the gardens at the new regional seminary in Carlton. I think it looks much better there than the bronze head does in St Joseph's chapel. Certainly we should have a public tribute to Mary McKillop, Blessed Mary of the Cross. It's one of the things that's exercising my mind here in Sydney of course at the cathedral.

Rachael Kohn: With St Patrick's Cathedral being a minor basilica and recognised as such by the Vatican, is it important to keep St Pat's as a very special cathedral to be visibly more grand than any other in Australia?

Archbishop George Pell: Well I certainly, as the Archbishop of Sydney, my ambitions are now focused on St Mary's, which is the mother church for all Australia, to make it that beautiful and appropriate and accessible, and also a cathedral for all the Catholics, not just Irish Australians. So I would be in very hot water to express an opinion as to which was the greatest cathedral. They're both magnificent buildings.

Rachael Kohn: Just on those sculptures, you've noted that it was important to recognise say the other very large Catholic community in Australia, the Italian Catholic community, but was it also in your mind to connect Australian Catholicism with its continental history, it's grand and long history, well before it was established here?

Archbishop George Pell: That's partly that, yes, absolutely. I mean Catholic comes from the Greek word, 'universal'; we're very much an international church, and that has seeped into our ordinary, everyday reactions to things. It was only say visiting Eastern Europe and visiting some of the Christians there of different traditions, they're locked into their national communities, which are often very strong.

The internationalism of the Catholic Church is very much built into the instincts of all churchgoing Catholics. So another thing we have, we have the beautiful bronze head of Archbishop Stepenic the Croatian church leader during the Second World War, and great defender of the church under communism, because the Croatian community in Melbourne is a very strong community too. And I know the Poles are putting together a small beautiful shrine which will go into the cathedral, that was started before I left, a small pair of rosary beads which were put together I think from bread at Auschwitz, and it also will have a cross which was stamped out of a cigarette tin from a communist jail.

And I certainly know that there have been discussions with the Vietnamese and the Maltese about just how they might or might not be represented somehow around the cathedral. But it's important for all those communities to realise that the cathedral is theirs, it belongs to all the Catholics of Melbourne.

Rachael Kohn: Can I ask you finally about Daniel O'Connell, he's the other major figure in the sculpture garden.

Archbishop George Pell: Yes, he is known as the liberator. He was the great fighter in the British parliament, he was an Irish politician, for Catholic emancipation, giving Catholics civil rights, or the basis for civil rights, right throughout the British Empire. Just before I took over as Archbishop, there was some consternation among some Irish Australians, including the Chief Justice, O'Connell was also a lawyer, that he was going to be shifted off the premises.

We shifted him around to the side where he faces out into Albert Street, the statue was beautifully reconditioned, it was re-dedicated by Mary Macalees the President of Ireland, and we have five or six or seven lines explaining his importance and significance, because most people wouldn't know who Daniel O'Connell was, think he was an Irish Australian bookmaker, and in many ways in Australia in the early 19th century in Australia, the freedom for Catholics was way ahead of the freedom that Catholics had in England.

Rachael Kohn: So it brings the political and the religious together in this great sacred site.

Archbishop George Pell: It does, and also a couple of other things that are important and significant. O'Connell's a layman, and often in cathedrals you don't always have laymen, and also of course we have Catherine of Siena who's a woman, and as we know the majority of churchgoers are women, so from a double point of view the inclusion of those two figures is properly significant.

Rachael Kohn: Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell.

Well that was the Bluestone Basilica, the fourth Australian Sacred Site in our series on The Spirit of Things, Radio National.

And thanks to Geoff Wood and Roi Huberman for production. You heard an excerpt from the 1963 ABC broadcast of the requiem mass for the Most Reverend Daniel Mannix.

Next week we get hot and sticky in Byron Bay, from indigenous sacred lakes to New Age spiritualities, the ancient and the modern come together in a new Eden by the Sea. That's Byron Bay, our fifth and final Sacred Site on The Spirit of Things, Radio National. Till then, so long from me, Rachael Kohn.


Guests on this program:

Most Rev. Denis Hart
is the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne.

Most Rev. George Pell
is the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney.


Australian Gothic: The Gothic Revival in Australian Architecture from the 1840s to the 1950s
Author: Brian Andrews
Publisher: Melbourne University Press, 2001

St Patrick's Cathedral - a Life
Author: T.P.Boland

Further information:

St Patrick's Cathedral

Australia's Sacred Sites

Musical Items:

CD Title: Australia: Eye of the Storm
Composer: R. Edwards
Label/CD No: ABC 7243 524 972 2
Copyright: ABC Music

Presenter & Executive Producer:
Rachael Kohn

Geoff Wood

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