Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane, who tendered his obligatory letter of retirement in July, appointing in the archbishop’s place an apostolic administrator who is just 18 months younger in age.
There is no word yet, officially or unofficially, as to when Pope Benedict will announce a successor to Perth’s Archbishop Barry Hickey, who tendered his own resignation four months earlier than his Brisbane counterpart.
All bishops are required by canon law to offer their resignation to the Pope when they turn 75.
The man appointed apostolic administrator of the Brisbane archdiocese ad nutum Sanctae Sedis (at the pleasure of the Holy See) is Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett, a former Anglican clergyman who joined the Catholic Church in 1965.
Bishop Jarrett has been bishop of the NSW north-coast diocese of Lismore since 2001 after having been appointed coadjutor bishop of the diocese by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
The change in Brisbane, the third-largest archdiocese in the nation after Sydney and Melbourne (and largest of the dioceses waiting on news of appointment of a new bishop), may signal that the ecclesial chess pieces are beginning to be moved on the Australian Church board.
It is intriguing that an administrator, rather than a successor, was appointed. There are now an estimated 10 dioceses in Australia awaiting appointment of a bishop.
The news was issued by the apostolic nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazorotto, from the nunciature in Canberra on Monday, 14 November.
As apostolic administrator, Bishop Jarrett can carry out all the duties normally exercised by an incumbent but cannot incardinate or excardinate priests until the See has been vacant for a year. Nor can he appoint vicars or chancellors, or alter or suppress parishes.