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Brisbane’s award-winning Catholic newspaper turns 90 today

Various front covers of The Catholic Leader since 1929
Decades old: The first edition of The Catholic Leader was published on December 5, 1929. The publication is now 90 years old.

THE Catholic Leader has covered the lives, events and opinions of generations of Brisbane Catholics and – with this 5581st edition – we commemorate 90 years since the inaugural publication on December 5, 1929.

Pre-dated by Brisbane Catholic publication The Catholic Age, later The Age, first published in 1892, The Catholic Leader remains Australia’s longest-serving Catholic newspaper. 

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said 90 years was quite something in this part of the world, and through all that time the story of The Catholic Leader has continued to unfold.  

“The Leader has seen not only many changes of format but also massive  cultural shifts – in the world, in the Church and in print media,” he said.  

“But through all the flux The Leader and its staff have provided news and comment, facts and their interpretation, not only as a service to the Church and the wider community but also a service of the Gospel. 
“As the age of fake news has appeared, the Leader has continued to tell the truth and to do so with a wonderfully varied human face. 

“Congratulations to all who have been part of the journey in the past and all who ensure that it continues now.”

Historian and retired priest Fr Chris Hanlon echoed the archbishop that the church had changed.

A timely example of this was the Plenary Council 1936, where unlike today, the laity were all but excluded from the process, he said.

Managing editor Matt Emerick said the history of The Catholic Leader was the history of Brisbane archdiocese.

“The Catholic Leader has covered the lives of Catholics around Queensland for 90 years.

“Times have changed – media consumption and production – but our stories will always point towards eternal truth. 

“We will continue to strive for the best in Catholic journalism.” 

Here is a look at some of the highlights from some of the newspaper’s most controversial, unique and world-changing coverage in the past 90 years.

June 18, 1942 edition

The Second World War raged and Nazi-occupied Europe was pinned between the Allied D-Day invasion force and the Russian forces in the east.

The Church was waging a war of the mind against the propaganda machine of Nazi Germany and their sympathisers.

The Catholic Leader reports Spanish Bishop Fidel Martinez was warning about the “special danger” Nazism posed on Spain.

He described the ideology as “anti-Christian” and made the state their god.

On the same front page, Pope Pius XII said like a shining beacon the “moral law must direct by the light of its principles the course of action of men and of States, and they must all follow its admonishing, salutary and profitable precepts”.

He goes on to outline the rights of smaller states in a world broadcast on the war.

June 29 and November 9, 1950 editions

Saint Maria Goretti was canonised on June 24, The Catholic Leader reported.

The little peasant girl saint was offered as a saint for the modern youth of the time.

She was martyred for her chastity and died on July 6, 1902. 

Later that year, The Catholic Leader reported on the proclamation ex-cathedra of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption by Pope Pius XII.

“To a humanity oppressed by darkness and beset by doubts, the Father of Christendom gave a message of light and of certainty to be pointed to that bright gem in the Crown of Mary, who was conceived without sin, whose virginity remained inviolate in her divine maternity and who was taken to Heaven body and soul when the earthly pilgrimage had ended,” The Catholic Leader reported.

October 4, 1962 edition

Five Queensland bishops were sent to represent Brisbane archdiocese in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, only the “third world council of the Catholic Church in the last 400 years”.

The sixpence edition of the paper was a “complete guide” to the historic assembly, which would later bring the Church the liturgical and structural changes Catholics know today.

November 28, 1963 edition

United States President John F Kennedy, the first Catholic president, was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, The Catholic Leader reported.

Pope Paul VI and the Catholic Church mourned his death.

The Catholic Leader reported Pope Paul went straight to his private chapel to pray following the news of President Kennedy’s death. 

Pope Paul’s message of condolence to America was broadcast on Vatican Radio in several languages.

“We profoundly rue this terrible event, which has struck the leader of a great nation and we grieve over the great sorrow of Mrs Kennedy, her children and all the family,” Pope Paul said.

Pope Paul also cabled messages to Mrs Kennedy, President Kennedy’s parents, and brother Robert. 

On the following Sunday, Pope Paul addressed 30,000 pilgrims in St Peter’s Square and spoke of the hate and wickedness that still existed in the world.

“Let us pray, as Jesus has taught us, not to be led into temptation, but to be delivered from all evil.”

August 3, 1969 edition

Pope Paul VI hails Apollo XI landing on the moon and warns of the need to end war and poverty. 

He told pilgrims at his Castelgandolfo villa that the spaceflight was “a triumph of man’s ability to dominate the universe.”

“We must not forget man’s need and duty to dominate himself,” he said.

“It is absolutely necessary that the heart of man should become freer, better, more religious as the power of his machines, his weapons and his instruments becomes greater and more dangerous.”

October 8 and 22, 1978 editions

The year of the three popes – Pope Paul VI died on August 6; Pope John Paul I was elected on August 26 and died thirty-three days later on 28 September 1978; Pope John Paul II was elected October 16. 

The Catholic Leader reported the familiar scenes of papal mourning and electing on October 8.  

“A magnificent Polish cardinal is now Vicar of Christ on earth,” The Catholic Leader reported about Pope John Paul II on October 22. 

He was the first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years.

October 17, 1982 edition

Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who was martyred in Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in 1942, was canonised by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982.

The Catholic Leader reported Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s devotion and total commitment was “an inspiration for parishioners to live every moment of their lives conscious of being in God’s presence”.

It was reported that in the death chamber, Kolbe consoled and encouraged his companions as they died one by one.

When after two weeks, Kolbe alone remained, he was killed with an injection of carbolic acid. 

Christmas 2000 edition

The Catholic Leader reported on the millennium, celebrating 2000 years since the birth of Christ. 

Pope John Paul II led the Catholic Church into the second millennium AD.

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