Pope names interim replacement for removed Australian bishop

Bishop Brian Finnigan/ Bishop William Morris
Bishop Brian Finnigan/ Bishop William Morris


Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Brisbane's Auxiliary Bishop Brian V. Finnegan as administrator of the Diocese of Toowoomba, Australia.

The diocese's previous bishop resigned after the Pope removed him from leadership for his remarks about women's ordination and the Eucharist.

Bishop Finnegan wrote in a May 2 letter that the new appointment was a responsibility he “hadn't personally envisaged.” He said he accepted the task “to ensure that the Pope's concern for the ongoing pastoral care of the diocese could be fulfilled.”

He acknowledged there could be “mixed feelings” surrounding the change, but said “hopefully there can be growth” for the local church as well.

Bishop William M. Morris resigned as Bishop of Toowoomba on May 2, after Pope Benedict removed him from pastoral care of the diocese. The retired bishop, who served for 18 years as the head of the southeastern Australian diocese, believes the Pope removed him for suggesting in a 2006 letter that he might ordain women, or invite protestant ministers to celebrate the Eucharist, due to a priest shortage.

Brisbane Archbishop John A. Bathersby told the Australian Associated Press that “there must be a lot of reason” behind the Pope's decision to remove the 67-year-old Bishop Morris eight years before the traditional retirement age. The archbishop appreciated the “enormous amount of work” Bishop Morris accomplished Toowoomba, but accepted the Vatican's decision as informed and authoritative.

"The Roman Catholic Church is hierarchical, and the Pope is at the top of it – and when the Pope makes a decision we accept it," said Archbishop Bathersby.

“We are made bishops by the Pope and on odd occasions the Pope himself will suggest the bishop he has appointed should no longer be in control of a diocese. That's the way it happens in the Catholic Church.”

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