Although the parish priest of St Mary's Catholic Church in South Brisbane, Father Peter Kennedy, was summarily sacked on February 6, the parish's 1000-strong congregation has vowed to defy the order and support their much-loved priest.
The Catholic archbishop, John Bathersby, terminated the priest's services after a long-running dispute with the congregation over matters of conduct and liturgy.
From February 21, Dean Ken Howell of St Stephen's Cathedral will act as an interim administrator of St Mary's.
Kennedy, who has spent 50 years caring for the oppressed and homeless, is adamant that he will continue to lead his flock, and plans to stay put on February 21.
As a member of St Mary's congregation, Meg Anderson says she finally felt she had come home "after 20 years in the wilderness struggling to deal with the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church in doctrine and social issues. I am in awe of the social welfare program, Micah, which is run at St Mary's. I for one would have nowhere to go in the Catholic Church if the spirit of St Mary's is destroyed."
"As a community we intend to stay here and we will disobey ecclesiastical authority", Kennedy wrote in his online blog. "The church is a dysfunctional family but it's our family. You don't just walk away because it is dysfunctional ... We will stay here as long as we need to for the archbishop to change his mind."
Sam Watson, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane and leading Indigenous activist, is a long-time supporter of St Mary's. "The land on which St Mary's stands is sacred Aboriginal land, an ancient site of the Kuril Dreaming, which is the small water rat", he told Green Left Weekly.
"[This is a] classic confrontation between hardline traditionalists and a community formed based on common humanity. St Mary's embraces all races, creeds and colours; embraces gays and lesbians; embraces women as equals — but this is all rejected by Bathersby and the pope.
"We will erect an Aboriginal tent embassy on [Feb 15] to defend St Mary's against the Catholic Church, against the police. The Catholic Church is the richest landowner in Australia, we call on them to hand St Mary's back to the people, and join our sacred circle", Watson said.