Premier, Madam Speaker, members of parliament, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
The Catholic Church is well-known for its commitment to the education of the young. Education has always been a significant element of the Church’s mission. It is born of an awareness that the human being flies on two wings – faith and reason. The Catholic Church has always been a strong advocate of human learning. Its history is filled with great scholars, and men and women who have advanced human thought.
In recent centuries the Church has been at the forefront of offering education to the masses. Many remarkable saints stepped forward to form religious orders dedicated to education, particularly of the poor. Our first Australian canonised saint was one such person.
Today the Catholic Church educates one in five Tasmanians. It continues its practice of giving a preferential option to the poor. We maintain schools in areas like Rosebery, and in other remote and regional areas. 55% of our students are in the lowest two socio-economic quartiles. Recently the establishing of the Flexible Learning Centre has given expression to the Church’s commitment to assist in the education of those who cannot manage within the traditional educational model.
Catholic education serves the whole of the Tasmanian community. This is particularly true now more than ever as 50% of our students are not Catholic. Parents obviously recognise that our schools have something to offer that they appreciate. They often comment on the level of care given to students and the wholesome environment of the schools. We are proud to be able to contribute to the education of many who are not of the faith.
Of course, our schools are inspired by our faith in Jesus Christ. Our mission and vision statements acknowledge that it is the person and teaching of Christ that animates all that we do.
The worship of God is a natural human good because it contributes to and fosters the flourishing of the human person. Apart from being a vehicle for the eternal salvation of people, it also assists in their physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. The value of religion arises from its pursuit of truth about the nature of human life, and offers meaning and value to the human life.
It is only because our society recognizes freedom of religion as a fundamental human right that our schools are able to operate. It is important that the religious freedom of our Catholic schools is respected so that we can continue to do what we do best – form young people holistically to be good citizens, both in the earthly and heavenly cities.
I thank the Premier and members of parliament for honouring Catholic education in Tasmania by attending this launch of Catholic Education week this evening.
Archbishop Julian Porteous.
Thursday, March 9, 2017