Pope Francis has announced the appointment of Bishop Anthony Fisher OP as the new Archbishop of Sydney. Bishop Fisher has served as Bishop of Parramatta since 2010.
This appointment follows the transfer of Cardinal George Pell to the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.
Speaking on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, its President, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, welcomed the announcement.
"For my brother bishops I congratulate Bishop Fisher on his appointment to Sydney. He will use his many gifts with generosity and faithfulness to serve God and to lead his people in the Sydney Archdiocese and beyond. I assure him of our prayers for his ministry."
Bishop Anthony said he was deeply honoured by the appointment and by Pope Francis' expression of confidence in him.
"I ask all Catholics and other people of good will to pray for me that I might be a good shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ," he said.
The Archbishop-elect is very much 'a Sydney boy'. Born at the Mater Hospital in Crows Nest he attended Catholic schools at Lakemba, Lane Cove, Ryde and Riverview. He studied history and law at the University of Sydney and practised in a city law firm before entering the Dominican Order.
He was ordained a priest in 1991 and after completing a doctorate in bioethics at Oxford, returned to teach at the Australian Catholic University. He later founded the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.
In 2003, he was appointed a Sydney auxiliary bishop and was Coordinator of World Youth Day 2008.
"Growing up in the south-west and then the north of Sydney, working as a bishop in the east and then the west, I feel a deep affinity for every part of this wonderful city and a deep concern for its people," he said.
"I'm very excited to be returning to the Archdiocese of Sydney and building on the strong foundations left by my predecessor Cardinal George Pell. Sydney is a vibrant, growing city with so much potential to be one of the greatest cities – and faith communities – of the world."
The Archbishop-elect said the Catholic Church in Australia had made an enormous contribution to nation building through parishes, education, healthcare, welfare, aged care and more.
"But it has more to do to renew our social capital and ensure that our country fulfils its potential to be a just and compassionate society," he added.
The Archbishop-elect said he was enormously enriched by his time as the Bishop of Parramatta and by the people of western Sydney.
"I know it will be hard to leave the Diocese of Parramatta and I thank the priests and people of the Diocese for the wonderful years I had with them."
In an interview with Vatican Radio's Emer McCarthy, Bishop Fisher said, "It's a tremendous honour. As a boy, as a young man at university, I used to go to Mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, especially for the Easter liturgies which I loved at the Cathedral. Never did I dream that I would be on the other side of the altar one day, there at the Cathedral."
Asked about the significance of Sydney, Bishop Fisher explained, "It is the mother Church of Australia. It is where the first settlement in the colonial period was, and it is now more than 200 years old. All the other parts of the Church in Australia were, one by one, chopped off from Sydney, as it were. So it's a very historic place for the Church in Australia, and it is a beautiful city, with a very large and diverse population.
"My motto: 'Speaking the truth in love', comes from a part of Paul's Letter to the Ephesians where he was reflecting on what is the task of the apostles, what his task was. 'Veritas' which is in the middle of that motto, is also the motto of the Dominicans which I come from. So I was wanting to carry something of that forward, but also to say what my own aspirations are for episcopal ministry.
"I think we have a wonderful treasure in the Catholic Church in our teaching, in what we have received from Christ, to hand on to people though we always do that, as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, with mercy, with love, with compassion for the people to whom we are bringing Christ's healing word. And I very much hope to do that for Sydney.
"At this time in Australia, like some other parts of the world, where we have faced a sexual abuse crisis, we are facing right now in Sydney troubles related to the Middle East at the moment, and it's a time when we need to hear the loving wisdom of Christ and his Church about peace and about restraint on people's anger and vengefulness, about the possibility – which I think the Catholic Church demonstrates better than any other institution in the world – that people of all nationalities and backgrounds can live together, love together and worship God together. And I very much hope that Sydney can relearn that right now."
Asked what he hoped would emerge from the Synod of Bishops in Rome, he said, "I think that in many parts of the West at the moment, and certainly in Australia and in Sydney, there is something of a crisis of confidence in marriage and family.
"People think it is too hard. A lot of people are reluctant to even attempt marriage; they have seen too many fail. It seems that the commitment required, the self-sacrifice required, is too much in an age where getting our own way and being personally fulfilled is everything.
"I think one of the great things the Synod can do for us, and I really hope will do for us, is to restore some confidence in marriage, in the beauty of marriage. In the way it reveals not just to married people and would-be married people but to all of us, very important things about the human person, the human condition, about things like commitment, self-sacrifice and reconciliation."