Sayedna, Your Eminence, Consul, Parliamentary colleagues and friends all. A great buzz went through the community here in Australia when it was announced that for the first time the Bishop of Australia for the Maronite’s was going to be chosen from among the Australian clergy. That sent two messages around. The first was a message that was simply based on the great love that so many people here in Australia have for Sayedna.
The second message though, was a maturing of the relationship between Australia and Lebanon. A sense now that the Lebanese community here is Australia had reached that sense that when the Church back in Lebanon was saying ‘Who is the best person to be given that role?’, they could look no further than somebody who was already here.
Shortly after, it was Julie Owens, the Member for Parramatta, who said to me “Wouldn’t it be lovely if in honour of this,” Julie said, “Could we plant a cedar of Lebanon somewhere here in Canberra.” And it was out of that idea that has brought us to today.
In the corner of the garden at the Presidential palace there is a spot with two cedar trees, an olive tree and an Australian gumtree. Similarly now here just behind where Julie is, where the Treasurer, Chris Bowen, is and where Jason Clare is, just behind us there now we have a Cedar of Lebanon just ready to do nothing but grow. And we don’t need to know much about Cedars of Lebanon to know the extent to which that’s going to grow.
The significance of it isn’t just in having it here- it’s in the way it all then blends together. The Cedar of Lebanon, as Therese Rein just mentioned, lies at the heart of the great temples that are described as the starting point for all three of the Abrahamic faiths. Whether it is references in the Torah or in the Bible or in the Koran, the temples that are referred to were built with the Cedars of Lebanon.
And what we have today is a concept now where when the winds gust through here there’ll be leaves flying in every direction and they’ll all fall to earth here together, in the Lodge, and quite properly those needle spiky leaves of the Cedar of Lebanon will be among them. And under the earth here the roots will criss-cross and intermingle and ultimately bind. Here, on the land where ultimately stands every Australian Prime Minister, just as the same thing is happening beneath the ground on the land on top of which once stood the Apostles.
The symbolism of today would not have happened were it not for Sayedna for Bishop Tarabay, being appointed. And it is an opportunity I think for us all to reflect on those words of Pope John Paul the Second, where he said that Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message. And the great message today of the extent to which the ties between us are bound and bind forever is a message that I think at its heart explains multicultural Australia and now has a permanent home here at the Lodge in Canberra.