WHEN Archbishop Mark Coleridge became Brisbane archdiocese’s leader in 2012, he looked forward to working more closely with his old friend, Townsville Bishop Michael Putney.
“Little did I think when I came to Brisbane that I would be accompanying him on the journey to death and beyond,” the archbishop said.
“Our friendship went back to the late 1970s when he was a young priest on the staff of Pius XII Seminary in Brisbane and I was a slightly younger priest from Melbourne leading a retreat or two at the seminary.
“Our paths crossed again in the early 80s when we were studying in Rome, and we have been firm friends ever since.
“I’ve always valued his humanity, intelligence, sound judgement, good humour and basic common sense.
“I’ve also been consistently helped and enriched by his deep faith and his love of the Church.”
Archbishop Coleridge (pictured) said he had become even more impressed by Bishop Putney since he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, “especially when the doctor said it would be a matter of months, not years”.
“In the meantime, Michael has lived through what he calls the richest and most fruitful period in his ministerial life, and he’s done this in the full glare of publicity,” he said.
“Spiritually and emotionally, he has never failed to be in good space, and many have marvelled at that – myself included.
“When he speaks of his condition or the fact of dying, he does so calmly and realistically, even at times with a touch of good humour.
“But above all what has been striking is his abandonment to the will of God.
“It’s one thing to talk that language when you’re well; it’s another thing to do it when you’re dying.”
The archbishop said, unlike Bishop Putney, he had not been surprised by the good wishes that had come from “far and wide” since the diagnosis.
“I’ve known through the years how much Michael and his work have been appreciated around the nation and the world,” he said.
“Michael’s key contribution has been in the area of ecumenism where he’s been a leading figure nationally and internationally for many years.
“By temperament and training, he’s well suited to ecumenical work, but he also sees it as a vocation from God. I agree.
“His loss will be felt not only within the Catholic Church but also far beyond in other Christian communities.
“Also, the way he has related to the civic community in Townsville has been exemplary of the way a bishop needs to look beyond his own community to the wider world.”