The first reactions of many Australian Catholics at the unexpected announcement of Archbishop George Pell's transfer from Melbourne to Sydney may well have been surprise - given that the Archbishop's work of reform in Melbourne, while considerable, was still in its early stages.
They might perhaps have concurred with Cardinal Clancy's gracious words at the media conference in Sydney on 27 March, following the announcement: "I do not know what Melbourne think of all this. They possibly feel that they have been robbed; but Melbourne's loss is Sydney's gain."
Without doubt he is "Sydney's gain" - but he is also Australia's gain. This is now the case as he assumes the responsibility of leading Australia's senior archdiocese. In terms of the wider good of the Church in Australia, Catholics throughout our nation will appreciate that Dr Pell, as Australia's most impressive Catholic leader, has been asked to exercise even wider responsibilities with this appointment.
With much work still to be done throughout Australia to implement the Statement of Conclusions - Catholic schools, liturgy, seminaries, ACU, and so on - and the wider challenge of re-evangelising a secular post-Christian society, our bishops have a heavy responsibility indeed. Additionally, many of the problems afflicting the Church in Australia are difficult to address on a diocese-by-diocese basis.
For these reasons, the many episcopal vacancies to be filled in the coming months assume particular importance. It is to be hoped the high quality evident in recent episcopal appointments continues.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail - email@example.com, AD2000 Website - www.ad2000.com.au)