PM Julia Gillard and Cardinal George Pell, pictured in the Sydney Morning Herald
Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged $1.5 million, if elected, for the canonisation celebrations of Mary MacKillop, at a fundraising event in Sydney last night. The promise was immediately matched by the opposition's treasury spokesman Joe Hockey,
Ms Gillard made the commitment at the Mary MacKillop Celebration dinner at Sydney Town Hall and paid tribute to Australia's first saint, reports AAP in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"For all Australians, who share a country in which we put freedom of religion into action every day by respecting each others beliefs, it is a time of celebration," she told the gathering.
"The government, if re-elected, will also support the celebration of this unique, historic event with a total $1.5 million contribution."
About $550,000 will support a youth contingent and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who will attend the canonisation ceremony in Rome in October.
The money will also go towards the production of educational materials and public events taking place at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney.
An additional $700,000 contribution will be made to the Mary MacKillop Foundation.
Mr Hockey then regaled the audience with his own experiences with Josephite nuns as a student, in particular Sister Vincent who called him only recently.
"She said I am very proud of you but please when you're sitting on those couches in parliament, sit up straight...
"I live in fear of Sister Vincent, so I want to say to you that we are going to match the prime minister's commitment of $1.5 million.
"It is not Tony Abbott I have a fear of."
Gillard announces $1.5m for MacKillop (Sydney Morning Herald/AAP)
Gillard promises $1.5m for miracle (Sydney Morning Herald)
Screenshot of Sydney Morning Herald report