The Forgiveness Cross at the Heart of Australia – Harvest Journeys
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14 June 2023

The Forgiveness Cross at the Heart of Australia

Photo: Fr Steve Fletcher MGL celebrates the first Mass on Memory Mountain.

Fr Steve Fletcher MGL, newly appointed Moderator of the Missionaries of God’s Love, was not sure how he would celebrate the Easter liturgies as he headed out to the Northern Territory on Holy Thursday. 

His destination was Haasts Bluff, 230kms west of Alice Springs where a 20m cross stands atop a mountain in the very centre of Australia. The large cross, built of Corten steel and recently erected on top of Memory Mountain (Kurrkalnga Puli), is the realisation of a decades-long dream of the local Aboriginal people of Ikuntji. Named The Forgiveness Cross, and accessible via an unsealed road at the edge of the West MacDonnell Ranges, the site is remote with minimal supporting infrastructure.

Fr Steve was invited by Harvest Journeys to accompany a group of sponsors and donors who had funded the building of the cross and were attending the opening over the Easter 2023 weekend, hosted by the local Indigenous community. The group was comprised mainly of people from various Christian churches, a number of pastors and ministers, and a handful of Catholic Harvest Journeys staff. 

Mass kit across his shoulder, Fr Steve was hopeful for opportunities to celebrate the Easter Triduum in whatever circumstances presented themselves. 

Ken Duncan, the renowned Australian landscape photographer established the Walk A While Foundation in 2010 to help the Indigenous people of central Australia tell their stories using their creative gifts and to equip them to engage in employment opportunities. This led to the funding and building of The Forgiveness Cross, a project spearheaded by the local elders and traditional landowners. 

Traditional owner and acclaimed artist Alison Multa, explains: “The cross will draw people to it. We believe as people come together in unity, focused on the cross of Jesus Christ and the victory it represents, we will see a mighty move of the Holy Spirit. It will be like a fire burning in the heart of our nation and spreading throughout the country.” 

Douglas Multa, local lawman and elder, is pragmatic about the benefits the cross will bring to his community. 

“That place was chosen by the old fella, my uncle, Nebo Jugadai. He had a vision way back then, way back, for this special place here. It is a good opportunity for our young people, bringing jobs, proper wages. We don’t have to rely on Government no more,” he said. 

Upon arrival at Glen Helen on Thursday afternoon, Fr Steve set up an altar by the local waterhole. Many from the group attended the celebration of the Last Supper, and at Fr Steve’s invitation, washed each other’s feet in the waterhole, reminded of Christ’s instruction, “I have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). 

On Good Friday, Fr Steve conducted the liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at the base of Memory Mountain, looking up at the surprisingly large cross crowning its peak. That night the cross was lit up to officially mark the launch. There are plans to have permanent solar lights installed in the cross so that it can be seen at night from many kilometres away. 

At dawn on Easter Sunday morning, Fr Steve celebrated what is believed to be the first-ever Mass on top of the mountain.  

“At sunrise on Memory Mountain The Cross of Forgiveness came into full view amidst the rugged beauty of Ikuntji Country,” said Fr Steve. “I was reminded of the words of an Aboriginal pastor in our group James Dargin, sharing that unity and transformation starts in the heart.” 

“As I gazed on Jesus lifted up in the Eucharist, the wide-open Country of this First Nation peoples came into view in the morning sun, reflecting the heart of the risen Christ abounding in love and mercy, drawing all to Himself.” 

Fr Steve has spent many years working with Indigenous peoples in Darwin, the Northern Territory and far North Queensland. 

The traditional owners have appointed Harvest Journeys as the official pilgrimage tour operator to help bring visitors to Memory Mountain.

This article first appeared in Pathways, a publication of Catholic Religious Australia – https://www.catholicreligious.org.au/news/the-forgiveness-cross-at-the-heart-of-australia

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