25 Jan 2012
The Red Mass which prays for divine guidance for those seeking or dispensing justice will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell at St Mary's Cathedral at 9 am, Monday, 30 January.
Dating back to the 12th Century when it was celebrated by the Papal Courts of Avignon, the Red Mass was held in Sydney for the first time on 16 February 1931 and has become an important part of both the Church as well as the legal calendar ever since.
Initially the city's Red Mass was celebrated by an informal group of the city's Catholic lawyers, many of whom went on to help found the St Thomas More Society of NSW. Established in 1945 and named after the patron saint of lawyers, Englishman and Chancellor to the court of Henry VIII, the Society boasts an impressive list of past and present members.
Cardinal Pell is patron of the St Thomas More Society of NSW. The current Society President is Richard Perrignon, a judicial member of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of NSW, Arbitrator with the Workers Compensation Commission and a Fellow of St John's College, University of Sydney.
"The Society has a rich history dating back to shortly after the Second World War and each year more and more members of Sydney's legal community attend the Red Mass ," says Michael McAuley, vice president of the Society, adding that it is particularly pleasing to see increasing numbers of newly-graduated young lawyers and law students participating each year.
The Red Mass takes its name from the rich crimson robes worn by the judges and clergy who attend the service. The crimson of the liturgical vestments worn at the Red Mass represent the Holy Spirit and tongues of fire that came down on the Apostles at Pentecost. The red robes worn by the judges and barristers which feature the vestigial hood and folds of the clerical dress from which they are descended add drama and impact to the spectacle.
Among those set to attend Monday's Red Mass is the NSW Attorney General, the Hon Greg Smith, who is also a member and past president of the St Thomas More Society. Also there will be former NSW Attorney General, John Hatzistergos; Professor Gerard Ryan, Dean of the School of Law at the University of Notre Dame; Professor Greg Craven, Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University; Stuart Westgarth, President of the Law Society of NSW and Bernard Coles QC, President of the NSW Bar Association.
The general public is welcome to attend the Red Mass at St Mary's Cathedral. Everyone no matter what their faith or political persuasion are invited to join the service which begins at 9 am on Monday, 30 January.