Church reform: from Stage One to Stage Two

Church reform: from Stage One to Stage Two

Michael Gilchrist

With the departure of the former Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr George Pell, to Sydney, it remained for his successor in Melbourne to be appointed. Meanwhile, Bishop Denis Hart was named on 11 May as the interim Diocesan Administrator. At this stage it is not clear when the name of the new Archbishop of Melbourne will be announced.

This editorial is not strictly about Bishop Hart's appointment or about who succeeds to Melbourne, but about the general direction of the Catholic Church in Australia, signalled by Archbishop Pell's move to Sydney.

One gains the impression, with this latest episcopal appointment, that Rome has come to appreciate that only through particularly strong and orthodox bishops - given the challenges facing the Church - can the faith be strengthened and spread throughout Australia.

It is an encouraging trend that there are now many bishops in this category. And with an increasing number of episcopal vacancies opening up over the coming months, there is an opportunity for Rome to consolidate the position further in Australia.

When the Statement of Conclusions was first released, with its agenda of reforms, the Holy See had reason to hope the situation would begin to improve in a reasonable time. And when the Australian bishops endorsed the document at their conference in 1999, this hope would have been confirmed.

Since then, however, the less than enthusiastic approach to implementation of the Statement of Conclusions in some quarters suggested the Statement itself might be only Stage One.

Stage Two, which has seen a recent succession of strong and orthodox appointments, culminating in Archbishop Pell's move to Sydney, seems to have involved, where possible, filling vacancies with bishops who could be expected to be more pro-active regarding the Statement of Conclusions.

Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail -

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