Pro-Vice Chancellor John O’Gorman, Rabbi Levi Jaffe, Dr Lindsay Farrell and friends,
I travelled to the Holy Land in the year 2000 with a hundred young Catholic pilgrims from Queensland on our way to Rome for the World Youth Day. The pilgrimage began in Cairo and then travelled through the Sinai Peninsula up into Israel, to Jerusalem and Galilee, before finally travelling down the coast for our departure from Tel Aviv. It was a deeply moving experience as we followed in the footsteps of Moses and the chosen people, stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and trod on the very ground where Christ himself had trod. There were many highlights too numerous to mention. We were always conscious that we were travelling in the very area where God’s revelation to the world had focused.
Nevertheless, it was not so much the grandeur and mystery of the area that captured my imagination as a small but important incident that happened at Jaffa on the journey to Tel Aviv. Because of the constant walking, I found in Jaffa that a small nail had penetrated the inner sole of my right shoe and was causing me pain and inconvenience. At a tea break I left the bus and sought a bootmaker in the neighbouring shops. Two bootmakers were not in the least interested in helping, but a third asked for my shoe and replaced the heel, refusing to take money. He gave me his business card with no name, only the name of the shop, an address, but no more. I did not tell him I was an Archbishop. When I returned home, in my gratitude, I sent a letter to him addressed “The Bootmaker” on such and such a street, thanking him for his generosity and wishing him well. I signed myself as Archbishop Bathersby. I heard no more. Twelve months later I received a phone call from a woman on the Sunshine Coast who recently returned from overseas. Off colour she rested outside a shoe shop in Jaffa only to be greeted by the bootmaker who on learning she was Australian asked her if she knew of an Archbishop named Bathersby. When she said ‘Yes’, he showed her my letter of gratitude framed on the wall of his shoe shop. Six months later I received another call from a man in Perth with a similar story. Buying shoes from an unknown bootmaker in Jaffa he was asked to phone greetings to me in Brisbane. On both occasions I replied warmly to his greetings, once again addressing my thanks merely to the bootmaker on such and such a street. I still do not know his name.
I mention this incident today because for me it showed the power of God revealed in the bible, a God who can bring two total strangers together in friendship and maintain that friendship despite a separation of cultures and religions, and a physical separation of thousands of kilometres. For me the Bible is filled with a Godly wisdom that if listened to and practiced, can change our world for the better. I’m sure the excellent Miniature Art Exhibition opening here tonight will further reveal by its beauty God’s presence in the marvellous book that both our religions revere and treasure. May God continue to reveal to us and the world, what humanity shares in common, so that ultimately the world will become the place of Justice, Peace and Freedom that God desires, and for which all people yearn. It is therefore with a real sense of honour that I am happy tonight to open this exhibition together with Rabbi Levi.
Released by the Catholic Communications Office