|Archbishop -Elect Christopher Prowse|
Whereas Cardinal Marc Ouellet Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops made several visits to Pope Benedict XVI each week, producing a steady flow of Episcopal appointments, in recent months he has had only occasional Audiences with Pope Francis. Result : a rapid decline in the number of Episcopal Appointments. One can draw one's own conclusions, especially given the Holy Father's pre-occupation with reform of the Curia. But time waits for no man and Bishop's continue to die creating vacancies, and those overdue for replacement remain in place.
Just when it seemed that the Australian File at the Congregation for Bishops had gone missing again, and indeed when very few non-Argentinian Episcopal appointments are being made, the new Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn has been appointed after a sede vacante situation since Archbishop Mark Coleridge vacated the See to take up his Brisbane appointment in May, 2012 - 16 long months ago.( It should be remembered that the Archdiocese also had its Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Power resign early, within a month of the departure of Archbishop Coleridge ,and has thus had no Episcopal presence all this time .And this in the Nation's Capital). Now at least there will be a Catholic Archbishop to greet the conservative new Australian Prime Minister elected so resoundingly one week ago.
In the preceding weeks we had seen Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney appointed Archbishop of Hobart Tasmania, replacing the well past 75yrs Archbishop Adrian Doyle.
While these appointments are most welcome, each has left a vacancy needing to be filled : a new Bishop for Sale in Victoria and a new Auxiliary Bishop for Sydney.
But, like " special offers" on Television...."WAIT! There's more:"
Brisbane's Auxiliary Bishop Brian Finnigan reached 75 years on 25th August not so many days ago. This leaves room for the appointment of a new Auxiliary and possibly one who might in due course succeed to the Metropolitan See of Brisbane when Archbishop Coleridge himself turns 75 yrs of age on 25th September, 2023 only 10 years from now.The identity of the person appointed will be keenly watched.
Then there remains the obviously difficult appointment of a new Bishop of Rockhampton ( to replace Bishop Brian Heenan who turned 75yrs of age on 4th August 2012 over 13 months ago). In addition, there is the sad situation in Townsville where Bishop Michael Putney is terminally ill.
And closer to Sydney Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay reaches 75 yrs in 59 days. Further, in remote Wilcannia -Forbes in NSW, the See's continued existence has been confirmed some months ago by the Holy See but no appointment has been made.
The appointment of new Bishops to these positions is vital to assist in the re-construction of the Australian Episcopate.This is a task that has too long hung in Limbo.
In reflecting on this whole subject, we bear in mind Saint Augustine's view:
" When I am frightened by what I am to you,
then I am consoled by what I am with you.
For you, I am a Bishop;
with you I am a Christian.
The first is an office,
the second a grace;
The first a danger,
the second salvation."
( Saint Augustine ,Sermon 340, 1
Quoted in Lumen gentium 32)