Bishop Peter Comensoli of Broken Bay, north of Sydney, has been appointed ninth Archbishop of Melbourne to succeed Archbishop Denis Hart.
The 54-year-old Archbishop-elect, who did masters and doctoral studies at two universities in Scotland, is to be installed quickly, with his Solemn Mass of Reception to be held in St Patrick’s Cathedral on 1 August.
He is the first Archbishop from outside the State of Victoria to lead to Church in Melbourne since Western Australian-born veteran papal diplomat Archbishop (later Cardinal) James Knox, who held office from 1967-74, when he was appointed to the Roman Curia.
Archbishop Hart, who has led Australia’s most populous diocese since 2001 when Archbishop (later Cardinal) George Pell was appointed Archbishop of Sydney, described his successor as “generous, gifted and faith-filled” who brought a wealth of experience in three dioceses. Bishop Comensoli was named Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Sydney in February 2014 when Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Pell inaugural Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and in November that year was named to his current post.
“I join the community in the Archdiocese of Melbourne in our prayerful and heartfelt welcome to him,” said Archbishop Hart, who until May was President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
The new conference President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, said Archbishop-elect Comensoli had the gifts and energies that his new mission would require.
“Archbishop-elect Peter has a good mind, an engaging personality and the strong pastoral sense needed in our largest diocese at a complex time like this,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“He’s a man who can listen and a man who can speak not only to Catholic people, but to the wider community as well.”
Archbishop-elect Comensoli said he was humbled that Pope Francis had chosen him and recognised “the challenge he has placed before me to lead God’s people in Melbourne tenderly, mercifully and joyfully”.
“The life of Christian discipleship is a precious gift, developed through hearing and responding to God’s call,” he said. “In accepting this call to be a new missionary among God’s people of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, I readily acknowledge the great responsibility entrusted to me, along with the frailties I carry.
“I will miss tremendously the wonderful people – laity, religious and clergy – of Broken Bay. For the all too brief time that it has been my privilege to serve them, I am proud to have been their friend and shepherd. Now I look forward to getting to know the people of Melbourne. And as a northerner, I will need some guidance around that mysterious code of football called AFL!”
He praised his 77-year-old predecessor. “I extend my deep gratitude to Archbishop Denis Hart for his faithful leadership and strength of Christian character over the past 17 years. His welcome to me has been warm, generous and encouraging, and I wish him every blessing in his retirement.”
Archbishop-elect Comensoli currently serves on the Bishops Commissions for Evangelisation and for Family, Youth and Life. He has particular responsibility for euthanasia, life matters and media.
From November, under reforms to the Bishops Conference announced last month, he will take up the appointments of Chair of the Bishops’ Commission for Life, Family and Public Engagement, and membership of the Bishops’ Commission for the 2020-21 Plenary Council.
Archbishop-elect Comensoli was born in the Illawarra region, south of Sydney, on 25 March 1964, the fourth son and last child of Mick and Margaret Comensoli. He was baptised at St John Vianney Church, Fairy Meadow, the parish in which he would receive all his sacraments of Christian Initiation and where he was ordained. He was educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters – founded in 1857 by Sydney’s first Archbishop, the English Benedictine John Bede Polding – at St John Vianney's Primary School, and by the Marist Fathers at St Paul's College, Bellambi.
After leaving school, he worked for four years in the banking sector, while studying Commerce at Wollongong University.
Archbishop-elect Comensoli began his studies for the priesthood in Sydney in 1986 and was ordained to the priesthood for the Wollongong diocese on 22 May 1992. He served in that diocese as Assistant Priest and then Administrator in a number of parishes and was Diocesan Chancellor for six years.
He holds a Bachelor of Theology (1989) and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology (1991) from the Catholic Institute of Sydney, a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in moral theology from the Accademia Alfonsiana (2000), a Master of Letters in moral philosophy from the University of St Andrews (2007) and a Doctorate of Philosophy in theological ethics from Edinburgh University (2011).
On 20 April 2011, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and consecrated on 8 June 2011 at St Mary's Cathedral.
Recently, he published a book entitled 'In God’s Image: Recognising the Profoundly Impaired as Persons' and has written several articles on Christian anthropology and disability.
Archbishop-elect Comensoli’s appointment was announced two days after the Administrator of Adelaide’s St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Fr Charles Gauci, was appointed the seventh Bishop of Darwin to succeed Bishop Eugene Hurley.
Bishop-elect Gauci, who will be the first Adelaide diocesan priest to be ordained a bishop in 45 years, was born in Malta and arrived in Australia with his family as a 13-year-old. He was ordained for Adelaide in 1977 and has served in parishes and wider roles across the Archdiocese.
He now assumes responsibility for a vast diocese covering almost all of the Northern Territory, where many Catholics are Indigenous.