It’s the best part of a year since Archbishop Mark Coleridge was tapped as the new head of Brisbane’s Catholic Church, and we in Canberra have been waiting eagerly for news of his replacement. The announcement of the apostolic nuncio’s re-assignment to another overseas post put things on hold somewhat, but there appears to have been an even greater spanner thrown into the works, as the Canberra Times reported today — on its front page, no less:
Canberra’s Catholics may have a long wait for a new leader after the man considered most likely to be appointed the next archbishop was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Townsville Bishop Michael Putney was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer late last year and it has now spread to his liver.
He had been widely tipped as the most likely successor to Mark Coleridge as archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn.
Now, Bishop Putney’s name was certainly one that was mentioned in discussions I’ve had and I’ve mentioned him on this blog before as a possible Archbishop of Canberra, but he’s not a man I know personally. Some of my colleagues know him, though, and speak very highly of him. He sounds like a lovely man who we are set to lose too soon.
As Msgr John Woods points out in the story, life for most Catholics in Canberra is trucking along as normal, so it’s not as though we should be overly concerned about the lack of a formal, permanent leader. The health of Bishop Putney is of much greater concern, though it appears there is little hope of a positive outcome.
A new nuncio is set to be in place within a few weeks and then the search for a number of new Australian bishops will resume in earnest. Sadly, it will likely include a search for a new bishop in Townsville as well…