Sydney, Australia, May 6, 2022 / 01:45 am (CNA).
Australia’s Catholic bishops have elected Archbishop Timothy Costelloe as their new leader.
Costelloe, a priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco, is the first member of a religious order to serve as president of Australia’s bishops’ conference.
The 68-year-old archbishop of Perth, Western Australia, succeeds Archbishop Mark Coleridge, who was president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for two two-year terms.
Coleridge, the archbishop of Brisbane, was unable to run for a third term because he will turn 75, the usual retirement age for bishops, in September 2023.
Costelloe, who was born in Melbourne in 1954, noted that Coleridge led the conference at a difficult time for the Catholic Church in Australia.
“It was Archbishop Coleridge who guided our response beyond the Royal Commission, represented the Church in Australia at the global summit on sexual abuse, and steered the bishops through a pandemic and a host of other challenges,” he said.
“Archbishop Coleridge has been a calm and considered leader locally and in the global Church and will be a trusted adviser for me in this new role.”
Coleridge said: “It’s been a great privilege to serve the bishops’ conference as president through a turbulent time, which has made the role more intense and demanding than I expected.”
“In some ways the four years has seemed longer, and I’m not sorry to be passing the baton to someone else. Presidents come and presidents go, but the work of the conference, which is the work of the Gospel, continues.”
The bishops re-elected Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney as the conference vice-president on the opening day of their plenary meeting in Sydney, their first in-person gathering since November 2019.
The two-year terms of Costelloe and Fisher will begin on July 13 after the second general assembly of the Australian Church’s Plenary Council, the highest formal gathering of all particular Churches in a country.
Australia, officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country of 25 million people, almost a quarter of whom are baptized Catholics.
Costelloe, who was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 2007 and archbishop of Perth in 2012, said: “The Church in this country is an immense contributor to our society, through our parishes, our schools, our hospital and aged care, our social services, and countless other ministries.”
“As we continue to contemplate how we live out the Gospel in this age, including through the Plenary Council, I look forward to working with my brother bishops and the People of God to carry forward Christ’s mission.”
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