You have no doubt heard about the upcoming “Year for Priests” announced by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI which will run from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010, marking the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé d’Ars, Jean Marie Vianney, whom the Pope described as “a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ’s flock.” We must not lose sight of the reason why Benedict XVI has announced a “Year for Priests.” He said it is in order to favour the tendency of priests towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends.” It is intended to highlight the “indispensable struggle for moral perfection which must dwell in every truly priestly heart.”

Over the last couple of years the Executive of the ACCC has been in discussion with our priest brothers in the USA, the American Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, about the possibility of a joint conference to be held in Rome. This proposal received approval at our 2007 Annual General Meeting held in Melbourne. The Executives of both the American and the Australian Confraternities believe that this “Year for Priests” is the ideal time for our joint conference. The conference will be held from the 4th-8th January 2010 in Rome. The choice of dates was determined by venue availability, costs, and finding a time of year in which both Australian and American priests are able to absent themselves from their parishes and normal pastoral duties.

Detailed information regarding the conference program and costs are not yet finalised. However, I can already inform you that our conference venue will be the Casa Pastor Bonus which provides quality accommodation, meals, and conference facilities close to the Vatican. Our program is likely to include daily Masses at the Roman Basilicas, Epiphany Mass with the Holy Father, talks from high-ranking Prelates in the Curia, opportunities for sight-seeing, and hopefully an audience with the Holy Father.

The Conference will be open to priests from throughout the Anglo-sphere, so if you have priest friends in the UK, Ireland or elsewhere who may be interested please let them know about it.

The Rome conference will be our only conference in 2010. However, we will still have a retreat and an AGM in Australia at some stage of the year. The Rome conference in the Year for Priests is a unique opportunity for the ACCC, a chance to forge and strengthen ties with our American brothers, and an occasion to show our solidarity with Pope Benedict. I encourage all our bishop, priest, and deacon members to make every effort to attend, and our lay associate members to pray for its success.

Please also note the ACCC Retreat, 15th-19th June 2009 at Galong, NSW, to be conducted by the Emeritus Bishop of Christchurch, NZ, as advertised in Inter Nos of February 2009, and also the ACCC Annual Conference at Baulkham Hills near Sydney, 20th-24th July 2009 as similarly advertised. For further details contact the ACCC Secretariat.

May God reward you and bless you all.

Bishop Michael Kennedy is the tenth bishop of Armidale, in New South Wales. He was previously a priest of the diocese of Wagga Wagga, and Chairman of the ACCC from 2005 to 2009.