THE Holy See has announced that Bishop Brian Finnigan will become the apostolic administrator of Toowoomba diocese, following a decision by Pope Benedict XVI to accept the retirement of Bishop Bill Morris.
Bishop Finnigan is an auxiliary bishop of Brisbane.
He will serve as the leader of Toowoomba diocese until a permanent appointment is announced.
The announcement was made by the Holy See on Monday at 8pm Queensland time.
In a letter to Toowoomba diocese prior to the official announcement, Bishop Morris said it was with “true sadness” he wrote his final letter to the diocese, having come to Toowoomba from the Gold Coast with little knowledge of this wonderful local church, yet found “a real sense of belonging”.
“To the entire diocese I say heartfelt thanks for your support, friendship, love and prayers over the last eighteen years,” Bishop Morris wrote.
“You have been a great gift to me, it has been a privilege to serve you.”
Bishop Morris spoke in his pastoral letter of an ongoing investigation by the Holy See following his Pastoral Letter in 2006.
Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane paid tribute to Bishop Morris for his pastoral care of Toowoomba diocese for the past 18 years and said the diocese would be well cared for under the leadership of Bishop Finnigan.
“I am aware there had been matters of concern between Bishop Morris and the Holy See in recent years which have culminated in Monday night’s announcement,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“Despite the sadness of priests and people, Bishop Brian Finnigan will make a fine apostolic administrator of the Toowoomba Diocese.
“Bishop Brian has diligently served as one of my auxiliary bishops since 2002 and is a former general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.”
Archbishop Bathersby said he was only too happy to assist Bishop Morris and Bishop Finnigan in this time of change for the Diocese of Toowoomba and its priests and people.
Bishop Finnigan, who will remain as auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane, said that while he cannot claim to know all of the priests and people of Toowoomba diocese, he does know a number of them.
“I am aware of the many verbal reports of the fruitful ministry of the priests, those active and those retired, and also of the religious as well as the parishioners who have ministered and lived in city, urban, country and isolated areas of the diocese,” he said.
“The unpredictable weather conditions and the recent natural disasters have been the stage on which lives of faith and service have been lived with pleasing results.”
Bishop Finnigan made very clear the good work Bishop Morris has done to address the needs of the victims of sexual abuse would continue under his leadership.
He also acknowledged Bishop Morris for the grateful and generous welcome he has afforded him and said the diocese would fulfil its responsibilities of caring for Bishop Morris as Emeritus Bishop of Toowoomba.
“I seek the prayerful support of all so that my shepherding might be modelled on that of Jesus Christ who came to serve and not to be served,” Bishop Finnigan said.
“May Mary of the Southern Cross and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop support and inspire all of us in Toowoomba with their intercession and example of fulfilling the will of God.”