Red Mass to Mark the Opening of New Law Term

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
29 Jan 2016

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP with judges and magistrates at last year's Red Mass

Judges, barristers, lawyers, academics and others in the legal profession will gather in Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral on Monday, 1 February at 9am to mark the opening of the legal year with a special Mass.

Known as "Red Mass", the annual liturgy offers the legal profession an opportunity to pray for guidance for those seeking or dispensing justice during the coming year.  It also celebrates the idea of the rule of law, and justice without fear or favour.

Taking its name from the crimson robes of the judiciary, Sydney's Red Mass was originally organised by an informal group of the city's Catholic lawyers who went on to found the St Thomas More Society just over a decade later.

Dating back to 12th Century and celebrated at the Papal Courts of Avignon, the Red Mass was held in Sydney at St Mary's Cathedral for the first time on 16 February 1931. Since that time the Red Mass has not only been adopted by other religious denominations but has become an important part of the Church calendar.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Yllana will celebrate this year's Red Mass

Apart from members of the judiciary, the Red Mass is attended by many other members of Sydney's legal profession as well as those involved in law from all parts of NSW and the Commonwealth.  Part of the tradition of Red Mass is a procession of judges, magistrates and barristers from the Cathedral Crypt, up the steps from the Cathedral Square and through the main doors of the Cathedral.

Last year, these included the Hon Justice Tom Bathurst AC, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales; Hon Justice Margaret Beazley AO, President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal; Hon Justice John Faulks, Deputy Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia; Hon Justice Derek Price AM, Chief Judge of the District Court of New South Wales; Hon Judge Graeme Henson, Chief Magistrate; Hon Judge Greg Keating, President of the Workers Compensation Commission and judges, magistrates and members of the several Federal and State courts and tribunals.

During his homily at the 2015 Mass, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said that the tradition of members of the legal profession gathering for Mass at the beginning of each Law Year was testament to the seriousness with which the profession takes such matters.

With Archbishop Fisher still recovering from recent illness, this year's Red Mass will be celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, His Excellency Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana. 

Judges gather to ask for divine guidance for the year ahead

Archbishop Yllana was born in the Philippines and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Caceres in 1972.  As well as philosophical and theological studies, and post graduate studies in international diplomacy, Archbishop Yllana holds doctorates in civil law and canon law.

He has been previously the Apostolic Nuncio to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Pakistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He has also served in Ghana, China, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Lebanon and Hungary and speaks several languages.

Judges and counsel may robe in the Crypt underneath the Cathedral from 8:30 am, and all are asked to be seated by no later than 8:50 am.

A morning tea will be served in Cathedral House following the Red Mass.