ONE of Australia’s longest serving bishops has stood aside amid the broadcast of allegations against him of historical sex abuse offences.
A Church message issued on March 10 by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders has voluntarily stood aside from the ordinary administration of the diocese.
The statement said the Holy See was “conscious of the particular situation in the Diocese of Broome and concerned for the pastoral care of the clergy, religious and laity of the diocese”.
Wollongong Emeritus Bishop Peter Ingham has been appointed apostolic visitor effective immediately, while Monsignor Paul Boyers will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the diocese.
According to a media report, 70 year-old Bishop Saunders has been at the centre of an investigation by West Australian police into offences against two young men, and denies the claim.
He is only the second Bishop of Broome and is in charge on one of Australia’s unique dioceses – 773,000 square kilometres with a Catholic population of about 10,000 people.
He has always maintained a keen interest in indigenous issues, arriving in Broome in 1975 to work as a deacon, and after ordination entering the priesthood.
In 1976 he commenced work at La Grange Mission, moving to Lombadina Mission in 1978.
He worked as a priest at Kalumburu Mission from 1982-1988.
In 1989 he was appointed to Broome as Administrator and retained that position until 1995, interrupted only by two years of study to obtain a Licentiate in Canon Law at St Paul’s Pontifical University in Ottawa, Canada.