Monsignor Tomas Halik joined by Melbourne’s Fr Frank Brennan SJ for an evening of dialogue

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Media and Communications Office

AS PART of his visit to Melbourne, prominent Church academic and theologian, Monsignor Tomas Halik, was joined this week by Melbourne Jesuit Father Frank Brennan at Melbourne University’s Newman College for the 2016 Dom Helder Camara Lecture, an event which brings prominent Catholic speakers and identities from all over the world to Melbourne.

Under the title ‘Healing Alienation: A dialogue’, Fr Frank Brennan interviewed Monsignor Halik, particularly about his long connections with his countryman Václav Havel , from 1989 to 1992 the last president of Czechoslovakia, who then served as the first president of the Czech Republic after the Czech–Slovak split. As well, Fr Brennan explored with Monsignor Tomas his lengthy connection with Pope John Paul II.

Monsignor Halik talked about the regular weekly meetings in his native Czechoslovakia in the early 90s, meetings of philosophers and leading academics and thinkers, all attended by President Havel, who listened deeply to the discussions and later implemented many of the strategies and proposals put forward.

Fr Brennan questioned the Monsignor on what he called the auto-immune deficiency in today’s body politic, a complete loss of trust in the political system. Mgr Halik agreed that the climate of society, the moral and psychological climate, has changed immensely in recent times. Aggression and hostilities within society have risen to new and divisive levels, particularly with the polarisation around refugees.

And even though it appears that the West is losing its identity, Monsignor Halik asked pointedly, ‘regarding this perceived threat to our identity, let us ask – what IS our identity?”

A dialogue on recent popes ensued, with the Monsignor anecdotal in relating his experiences and contacts with Pope John Paul II. It may be noted that Monsignor Tomas does a very fine vocal impression of St John Paul.

Pope Benedict was referred to by Fr Brennan as ‘the pope of the remnant world’, before Monsignor Halik talked about Pope Francis, who, he said, glows with the true message of Christianity openness, mercy, love of the poor, all fruits of Vatican 2.

A cautionary note from the Monsignor, however, who reminded the audience (a balance of bishops, priests and lay people) that even though we seem to be entering a new era, a new inspiration, Pope Francis still needs the support of theologians, just as, in its time, Vatican 2 itself did.

On the night’s theme of alienation in our modern world, Monsignor Tomas spoke of themes developed in his own writings (he has two books available in English), acknowledging the challenges, the dark nights of the soul, we experience, but this, he said, is purification, an opportunity to go deeper, to allow ourselves to be crucified in our ‘childish faith’ in order that there may be a new resurrection.

‘The cry of our Saviour on the cross,’ stated the Monsignor, ‘’my God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ is the cornerstone of my theology!’ Christ had to go through hell, just as we do.

The Camara Lecture concluded with Monsignor Halik and Father Brennan taking diverse questions from the floor.

Monsignor Halik's newest book, ‘I Want You to Be’, will be published in English later this year.

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