Several leading Australian political figures who are Catholic will attend the papal Mass closing World Youth Day, highlighting some leaders’ inconsistencies in applying their faith to political life.
Morris Iemma, the Premier of New South Wales who voted for embryonic stem cell research, has said he wants to receive Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI at the closing Mass for World Youth Day but also said he did not expect to do so, the Sydney Morning Herald says.
Iemma, a practicing Catholic, said having the Pope in Sydney would be a “deeply rewarding experience for all Catholics, my family included.”
New South Wales Deputy Premier John Watkins, who is also a Catholic, said he would probably attend the closing Mass “in an operational capacity rather than as a guest.” Watkins cast a vote that helped overturn the state parliament’s ban on so-called therapeutic cloning.
Watkins and Iemma voted in favor of the stem cell bill despite a warning from the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who said that their vote would have consequences concerning their place in the life of the Church.
Other Australian officials will attend the closing Mass, including Kristina Keneally, the New South Wales Minister for Ageing, who met her husband at a previous World Youth Day and voted against the embryonic stem cell bill. The Minister for Ports and Waterways, Joe Tripodi, will also be present. He has described Catholicism as “one of the most significant factors in my upbringing.”
At the closing Mass at Royal Randwick Racecourse the Pope will give Holy Communion to a select group of 24 young confirmation candidates and their sponsors. Others, including the New South Wales ministers, will be able to receive Holy Communion from attending priests.