Mr Fischer is still widely regarded with considerable affection in this country for his integrity and decency as a deputy Prime Minister between 1996 and 1999. He served in Vietnam in the Royal Australian Regiment which was followed by several decades in public life as a member of the National Party of Australia, holding the seat of Farrer from 1984 to 2001. He was appointed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the position of Australian ambassador to the Holy See where he served with distinction between 2008 and 2012.
However, despite a Jesuit education at Xavier College in Melbourne, Fischer does not have a sound grasp or appreciation of history, least of all the history of the papacy during World War Two and the situation that confronted Italian and Roman Jewry in 1943.
I read the article with equal parts of interest and amazement. There are occasions when I believe it is the better part of good public speaking to avoid entering conversations or answering questions when you are not fully in charge of the facts. I think yesterday's launch was one such occasion.
Citing the now long-refuted numbers concocted by Pinchas Lapide is not a good strategy. Nor is making implications that "New York Jewish lobby", whatever that it is, attempts to influence Vatican policy through loud and "shrill" statements. Some of Fischer's comments bordered on thinly-veiled Antisemitism; the direct reference to Australian-born Mark Regev was not positive. From a man who was known for his consistent moral positions in the Commonwealth parliament, this is disturbing. I can only hope that the man was misquoted, or at least quoted out of context. And I hope he issues a clarifying statement or apology.
I will leave the reader to make up their minds.