Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
11 Nov 2011
Forty four years of friendship linked two great Catholic figures who were both honoured at a night hosted by Campion College on Tuesday 8 November in The Stranger's Room of NSW Parliament House.
The dinner for 130 special guests featured Professor George Weigel as guest speaker and saw His Eminence Cardinal Pell receive an award by the Polish Ambassador in Australia, Andrzej Jaroszynski for his support to Polish Catholic immigrants.
George Weigel and Cardinal Pell owe their decades-long association to a shared passion for the renewal of Catholic culture and the importance of an education in liberal arts, especially for the young.
Weigel, Senior Fellow of the US Ethics and Public Policy Centre, a Catholic theologian and one of America's leading public intellectuals is the author of over twenty books, including the bestselling biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope.
He gave a dinner address entitled "Saving the 21st Century: Why Catholics Count".
Weigel gave a powerful metaphor of Western civilisation as a "product of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome - a stool with three legs". He went on to explain that the Judeo-Christian heritage of Jerusalem, the philosophers of Athens and the rule of law of Rome have contributed to the highest ideals inherent in The West, namely the defence of human rights and democracy.
Weigel noted that in modern times we see The West under attack by post modernist relativism, the deification of reason and all the ensuing consequences. He called for education in the faith as an antidote to this malaise.
"The rebirth of The West will come from creative minorities like the Catholic Church who must lead with the Gospel radical truth of the human race" he said.
Calling for a renewal in liberal arts education, Weigel drew attention to the great work of Campion College in providing students the opportunity to study history, literature, philosophy and theology in an environment of faith and excellence.
Given Weigel's intricate association with the papacy of John Paul II, there were appropriate nods to the great Pope throughout the evening: the Polish ambassador's presence, the support of Cardinal Pell for the Polish Community and Weigel's account of some of the intimate encounters he had with the late Pope.
Speaking of Pope John Paul II's witness of the value of human suffering, Weigel said, "The last 2 months of his life were his last encyclical. He invited the entire world into his suffering, which was in fact the suffering of Christ".
Relating a story of when he was working as a Vatican analyst for American news organisations, he explained the bemusement of some of the television stations at the vision from the Vatican of the Pope John Paul II watching his last stations of the cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday. The angle was from behind, not showing the Holy Father's face, but only his back and the crucifix he was holding.
"I said to them 'You've missed the point. The Pope is saying, don't look at me, look at Jesus Christ'" he said.
Delivering an impressive vote of thanks was Campion College graduate, Olivia Meese who spoke with great eloquence about the education she received which not only formed her academically, but strengthened her faith to the degree that she was inspired to take on the difficult ethical life issues of the medical field. She is now a second year medical student of Notre Dame University in Sydney.
The Schola of Campion College entertained guests throughout the evening as wine flowed from an award winning Catholic winemaker from Murrumbateman. The owner of Clonakilla wines, Tim Kirk explained that his faith inspired him to become an expert in his field and he has "been blessed" with worldwide recognition of his Shiraz Viognier as one of the greatest in Australia.
James Power, director of Campion College concluded the night with an appeal for the financial support of education in the liberal arts and donations to Campion College were welcomed.
Campion College is Australia's first and only independent Liberal Arts College. It was founded under the patronage of Edmund Campion, English Jesuit priest and martyr (1540-1581) who courageously defended the faith, was sentenced as a traitor and executed in Tyburn at the age of 41.
The mission of the College is to form future leaders of society and of the Church by a broad program of learning in the liberal arts that integrates the insights of faith and reason. For more information on Campion College see http://www.campion.edu.au/.