Australian bishop: 'Traditional' Anglicans should convert

PERTH, Australia -- Traditionalist Anglicans who remain in the Anglican Church rather than taking up Pope Benedict XVI's offer of an Anglican ordinariate are wasting their time and spiritual energy clinging to a dangerous illusion, said the Vatican's delegate for the Australian ordinariate.

Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliott, a former Anglican, urged Anglicans at a Feb. 26 festival in Perth to take up the pope's offer of "peace."

"I would caution people who still claim to be Anglo-Catholics and yet are holding back," he told The Record, Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth, Feb. 26. "I'd say 'When are you going to face realities?' because there's no place for a classical Anglo-Catholic in the Anglican Communion anymore."

In November 2009, Pope Benedict announced his decision to erect personal ordinariates for former Anglicans who wanted to enter into full communion with Rome while preserving liturgical and other elements of their Anglican heritage, including a certain amount of governing by consensus.

Bishops pleased by Afghan refugee policy

PERTH, Australia -- Australia's Catholic bishops praised the Australian and Afghanistan governments for signing a deal they hope will be "a shift away from ineffective and cruel policies of deterrence to control forced migration."

The two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding Jan. 17 with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a Feb. 4 statement, the Australian bishops' Migrant and Refugee Office expressed the hope that the agreement represents "a more proactive approach which addresses the underlying issue of war and instability in Afghanistan."

The bishops said that people smuggling activities cannot be controlled by returning unsuccessful asylum seekers to Afghanistan.

"The message is lost on people who are desperate and have no other choice," the statement said, and urged the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen to guarantee "beyond doubt" that those who are returned to Afghanistan will be protected from violence and persecution.

"Australia is paving the way for the rest of the international community to start sending refugees back to Afghanistan. To do so would likely escalate the situation," the statement said.

Vatican urges Australian bishops to continue work for asylum seekers

PERTH, Australia -- The Vatican has urged Australia's Catholic bishops to persist with their "generous and passionate work" for asylum seekers after at least 48 of them were killed off Christmas Island Dec. 15.

Archbishop Antonio Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, and Father Gabriele Bentoglio, undersecretary of the pontifical council, sent the letter of encouragement Dec. 17 to Bishop Joseph Grech of Sandhurst, the Australian bishops' delegate for migration issues.

On Dec. 15, 48 asylum seekers -- believed to be mostly Iraqi and Iranian -- drowned off Christmas Island after their boat crashed into cliffs in stormy seas. The Australian Navy rescued 42 survivors, and the Australian Federal Police are investigating the actions of three Indonesian crewmen in connection with the incident.

A survivor told Australian newspaper publisher News Limited Dec. 20 that there were about 80 people on board, including 30 children.

More than 2,000 people are being held in an immigration detention facility on Christmas Island, more than 1,600 miles northwest of Perth.

Australian bishops question returning asylum seekers to Afghanistan

PERTH, Australia -- The same day that up to 50 asylum seekers drowned off the coast of Australia, the nation's Catholic bishops questioned the planned repatriation of more than 300 ethnic Hazara asylum seekers to Afghanistan.

The Australian newspaper reported Dec. 14 that the government was on the verge of signing a memorandum of understanding with the Afghanistan government to allow the repatriation of the Hazaras to their troubled home country.

Bishop Joseph Grech of Sandhurst, the Australian bishops' delegate for migration issues, said in a Dec. 15 statement it seemed premature to be discussing repatriation to Afghanistan, "which is widely considered to be extremely dangerous."

This is especially the case, he said, considering that, until September, there was a freeze on asylum claims from Afghanistan.

Scalabrinian Fr. Maurizio Pettena, director of the Australian bishops' Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, said there was not enough information to make a decision to repatriate so many.