ANZAC CENTENARY MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SATURDAY, 25TH APRIL 2015 AT 9.30 A.M.
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
I take this opportunity to thank each of you who have come to this particular celebration of the Centenary of Anzac Day.
Jesus died that we might live. We pray eternal rest for those who have died for the freedom which we value because, like Jesus, they laid down their lives for their friends. Particularly at this stage in our history we Christians have to show fortitude in the cause of right and to be ardent defenders of the peace and unity for which our Saviour prayed.
Today in both Church and community we are confronted with the fact and consequences of death. For the twelve Apostles it was the realisation that for Jesus after death came resurrection, which is a promise of imperishable life for all of us. For us here in Australia one hundred years after Gallipoli there is the memory of the 28,000 young Australians who perished there. At this poignant moment when other young Australians are involved in defence of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, it is scant comfort that the historians suggested that the war in Gallipoli delayed the progress of Australians to Europe where, had they arrived in 1915, the casualties might even have been greater.
Anzac Day has always been a day of prayer, sadness and loss - of a parent or grandparent, of thoughts about what might be, of young lives cut short, of dreams unfulfilled and of horror present, as even now at the carnage of war.
As on this day we pray for all who have died in the service of their country, we remember our successive generations of Australians who have faced the challenge of war. The spirit of Australians is born at Gallipoli; this spirit arises to draw new breath when needed amid ash-filled skies, flooded ground and the rubble of disaster.
At one of the funeral services for Edward Matthews, a significant Gallipoli veteran to die, Sir William Deane said: 'Anzac is about courage and endurance and duty and mateship and good humour, and the survival of a sense of self-worth; the sum of those human and national values which our pioneers found in the raw bush of a new world and tested in the old world for the first time at Gallipoli. They were not found wanting, not even in the face of overwhelming odds and the final realisation of the inevitability of failure.' (Tony Stephens, Sir William Deane, p. 137)
Today as we remember in prayer our dead and as we honour them for their courage, we remember also the families who grieved their departure and welcomed their return and grappled with the succeeding challenges of integration back into the community and life in the future.
There is much to reflect about the imperishability of the human spirit. On this day when we think of our ultimate destiny, we are reminded that Jesus rose from the dead that we might live after his pattern of giving and that our service, because we are people of faith, might enrich our family and national life and may lead us to eternal life.
We are among those who have not seen and yet we are invited to see a purpose far beyond the tragic suffering of war on the one hand, the gallantry and determination on the other, and the importance of memory to all of us to enrich and challenge us to continue our journey.
As we remember the call of Jesus to pass through death to life, we recall the courageous evacuation of Gallipoli over eleven nights in December 1915 and the link between those living and the dead whom they necessarily left behind. As we pray for them now we remember their capacity to inspire us to use our gifts in his service, welcome and hope.
These words written by an evacuee show that solidarity which exists even today:
'Not only muffled is our tread,
to cheat the foe,
we fear to rouse our honoured dead
to hear us go.
Sleep sound, old friends – the keenest smart
which, more than failure wounds the heart,
is thus to leave you, thus to part.'
May those whom we honour today and from whom we take inspiration sleep in the peace of the risen Christ, who has called them and us through death to life that we might live as witnesses to the gift of eternal life given by Jesus, our Saviour.
Eternal rest grant to them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.