Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

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Archdiocese of Melbourne

Archidioecesis Melburnensis
St Patrick's Cathedral (Gothic Revival Style).jpg
Ecclesiastical provinceMelbourne
Coordinates37°48′32″S 144°58′46″E / 37.80889°S 144.97944°E / -37.80889; 144.97944
Area27,194 km2 (10,500 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2016)
Increase 4,440,000
Increase 1,167,696 (Decrease 26.3%)
DenominationRoman Catholic
RiteLatin Rite
Established31 March 1874
CathedralSt Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne
Patron saintSt. Patrick
Current leadership
ArchbishopPeter Comensoli
Auxiliary BishopsTerence Curtin,[1]
Mark Stuart Edwards, O.M.I.
Bishops emeritusDenis Hart
Joseph O'Connell
Hilton Deakin
Peter John Elliott
Roman Catholic Diocese of Melbourne in Australia.jpg

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne is a Latin Rite metropolitan archdiocese, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Erected initially in 1847 as the Diocese of Melbourne, a suffragan diocese of Archdiocese of Sydney, the diocese was elevated in 1874 as an archdiocese of the Ecclesiastical Province of Melbourne and is responsible for the suffragan dioceses of Sale, Sandhurst and Ballarat; the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Ss Peter and Paul and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart are attached to the archdiocese, for administrative purposes. St Patrick's Cathedral is the seat of the archbishop of Melbourne, currently Peter Comensoli who succeeded Denis Hart on 1 August 2018.

According to the 2006 Commonwealth Census figures, there were 4,932,423 people within the province. Of these, 1,349,828 were Catholic, about 28% of the population.[2]


When Melbourne, then called the Port Philip Settlement, and the surrounding area was being settled by European settlers in the 1830s, the area was a part of the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical Province of Sydney in the Archdiocese of Sydney. In 1839, John Polding, the Archbishop of Sydney, placed Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan in charge of the Port Philip Settlement and the first Mass was celebrated in Melbourne on Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 1839; the entire population of Port Philip in 1841 was 11,738 and the Catholics numbered 2,411.[3]

The oldest surviving Catholic church in Victoria, St Francis Catholic Church, was built in 1841.

The Diocese of Melbourne was created in 1848 out of territory of the then Sydney archdiocese, with James Alipius Goold as its first bishop; the Catholic population of the colony was 18,000 in 1851 and had grown to 88,000 by 1857 as a result of the gold rush.[3] James Goold was also instrumental in setting up many Catholic schools in the diocese and in introducing to the diocese several religious orders devoted to education and works of charity, including the Society of Jesus, the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Mercy, the Good Shepherd Nuns, the Presentation Sisters, the Faithful Companions of Jesus and the Little Sisters of the Poor.[3]

When Goold was appointed Bishop of Melbourne in 1848, St Francis' Church became the cathedral church of the new diocese. Construction of a new church on Eastern Hill in East Melbourne commenced in 1858, to be called St Patrick's Cathedral. Construction of the cathedral was not completed until 1939.

On 30 March 1874, the dioceses of Sandhurst (comprising four parishes) and Ballarat were formed out of territory of the Diocese of Melbourne, with the Diocese of Melbourne becoming a metropolitan archdiocese of the Ecclesiastical Province of Melbourne and responsible for Sandhurst and Ballarat dioceses as suffragan dioceses; the suffragan Diocese of Sale was similarly formed on 26 April 1887 out of the archdiocese.

Under Goold's successor, Thomas Joseph Carr, additional teaching orders were introduced to the archdiocese, including the Marist Brothers, the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of Loreto, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. In 1887, 11,661 pupils attended Catholic schools of the archdiocese and that number had grown to 25,369 by 1908; the Catholic population of the archdiocese according to government census returns of 1901 was 145,333.[3]

Until the mid-20th century, the Catholics of the archdiocese were almost all Irish or of Irish origin, when expansion of the migration programs saw the arrival of non-Irish Catholics from continental Europe; the priesthood was exclusively Irish until the early part of the 20th century, when training of native born priests began.


The following individuals were Archbishops of Melbourne, with one being a cardinal while in office as archbishop, as well as having civilian honours, their highest title is shown here:[4]

Order Name Title Date enthroned Reign ended Term of office Reason for term end
1 James Goold, OSA Bishop of Melbourne 9 July 1847 31 March 1874 26 years, 265 days Elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne 31 March 1874 11 June 1886 12 years, 72 days Died in office
2 Thomas Joseph Carr Archbishop of Melbourne 29 September 1886 6 May 1917 30 years, 219 days Died in office
Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Australia 1912 1917 5 years Resigned
3 Daniel Mannix Coadjutor Archbishop of Melbourne 1 July 1912 6 May 1917 4 years, 309 days Elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne 6 May 1917 6 November 1963 46 years, 184 days Died in office
Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Australia
4 Justin Simonds Coadjutor Archbishop of Melbourne 6 September 1942 6 November 1963 21 years, 61 days Elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne 6 November 1963 13 May 1967 3 years, 188 days Retired and appointed Archbishop Emeritus of Melbourne
5 James Cardinal Knox Archbishop of Melbourne 13 April 1967 1 July 1974 4 years, 309 days Elevated to Prefect of the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Vallicella 5 March 1973 26 June 1983 10 years, 113 days Died in office
Prefect of the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship 25 January 1974 4 August 1981 7 years, 191 days Elevated to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family 4 August 1981 26 June 1983 1 year, 326 days Died in office
6 Sir Frank Little, KBE Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne 16 November 1972 1 July 1974 1 year, 227 days Elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne 1 July 1974 16 July 1996 22 years, 15 days Resigned and appointed Archbishop Emeritus of Melbourne
7 George Cardinal Pell, AC Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne 30 March 1987 16 July 1996 9 years, 108 days Elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne 6 July 1996 26 March 2001 4 years, 253 days Elevated to Archbishop of Sydney
8 Denis Hart Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne 10 November 1997 22 June 2001 3 years, 224 days Elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne 22 June 2001 1 August 2018 17 years, 40 days Retirement and appointed Archbishop Emeritus of Melbourne
9 Peter Comensoli Bishop of Broken Bay 12 December 2014 31 July 2018 3 years, 231 days Elevated to Archbishop of Melbourne
Archbishop of Melbourne 1 August 2018 present 1 year, 55 days n/a

Current auxiliary bishops[edit]

The archbishop of the archdiocese, Peter Comensoli, is assisted by several auxiliary bishops:

There are also emeritus auxiliary bishops:

Monsignor Greg Bennet was appointed vicar general and moderator of the curia of the archdiocese in February 2012.

Former auxiliary bishops[edit]

Bishop Les Tomlinson was the auxiliary bishop for the Eastern Region until he was installed as Bishop of Sandhurst in March 2012.[5]

Bishop Tim Costelloe SDB was appointed as an auxiliary bishop in April 2007 with responsibility for the northern region of the archdiocese. On 20 February 2012 Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to Archbishop of Perth, Western Australia.

Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv was the auxiliary bishop for the western region and former assistant superior general for the Conventual Franciscans for Asia and Oceania until he was appointed Bishop of Parramatta on 5 May 2016 and he was installed on 16 June 2016 as Bishop of Parramatta .

Other information[edit]

There are 232 parishes in the archdiocese and 369 diocesan priests and 16 permanent deacons; the archdiocese has a total of 294 priests and one permanent deacon in religious orders, 199 religious brothers and 1,323 religious sisters.

There is one seminary for diocesan clergy, Corpus Christi College, and three seminaries for religious clergy.

There are 331 Catholic schools in the archdiocese - 256 primary, 69 secondary and six special schools. According to the 1998 census, there were 136,387 students enrolled in Catholic schools in the archdiocese - 77,636 in primary schools and 58,751 in secondary schools.

Within the archdiocese, there are 10 Catholic hospitals, 18 homes for children, 27 for the elderly and 10 for other purposes.[2]

Sexual abuse cases[edit]

Cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have come to light in recent years involving the Archdiocese of Melbourne as well as many regional Catholic jurisdictions, both in Australia and around the world.[6] Archbishop Denis Hart was cross-examined for three hours at the Parliamentary Inquiry over documents sent to the inquiry by victims and whistleblowers within the archdiocese.[7] Hart regretted the "slow start" made in the process of resolving complaints and investigating instances of abuse but "st[ood] by what [they] did since 1996 nevertheless";[8] the inquiry's report was due to be delivered to the Victorian parliament in September 2013.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b "Facts". Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
  3. ^ a b c d Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Melbourne
  4. ^ "Archdiocese of Melbourne". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  5. ^ "New Bishop of Sandhurst" (Press release). Diocese of Sandhurst. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  6. ^ Cook, Henrietta (20 May 2013). "Culture of secrecy and cover-up, Hart admits". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  7. ^ Zwartz. Barney (21 May 2013). "Hart admits 'awful blight'". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  8. ^ Ewart, Heather (20 May 2013). "Melbourne Catholic Archbishop admits 'awful blight on church'". 7:30 Report. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 16 June 2016.

External links[edit]