A church in Sydney's Redfern neighbourhood has become the battleground for a clash of traditions, following a row over a baptismal font and removal of chalk writings referring to an "Aboriginal Christ". The row reflects a deeper clash between traditional Catholicism and the more vernacular version practised in St Vincent's parish in Redfern, says the Sydney Morning Herald.
A group of St Vincent's churchgoers has accused Father Clesio Mendes, a Perth-trained priest, of disrespecting local Aborigines by scrubbing the line of hand-scrawled poetry - that had been on the wall for years - from the wall of the church. They also say he has removed a baptismal font that was brought to the church by the late Father Ted Kennedy, the beloved former parish priest whose shoes his successors have struggled to fill.
Father Clesio says he cleaned the writing off the wall "because it was critical of the church". He said he was just trying to uphold the teachings of the church in the face of some parishioners who openly disrespected Catholic traditions.
"When Father Ted was there, he ran the church to make the Aboriginal people feel comfortable. (Mendes) acts like it's his church, not the people's church. We just want to have a normal priest who is understanding towards Aboriginal people." Ralph Townsend, 52, an Aboriginal parishioner of about 18 years, is quoted saying.