Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has last week been elected as the new President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, with Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP as Vice-President.
Archbishop Coleridge was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in 2002, and later became Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn.
He has served as Archbishop of Brisbane since 2012, and this week replaces Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart after the latter’s six-year stint as President of the Conference.
Both Archbishop Coleridge and Archbishop Fisher will serve two-year terms.
In a conversation with the ACBC Communications Office, Archbishop Coleridge speaks about his appointment at a critical time for the Catholic Church in Australia.
Archbishop Coleridge said the greatest challenge is to help the Church move from the Royal Commission to the Plenary Council and all that lies beyond it.
“This will mean helping the Church find a distinctively Gospel voice in the great social debates – not fighting ideology with ideology, but engaging issues with the power of the Gospel.
“That will mean working to make sure Jesus is at the heart of everything. In the end, He’s all we’ve got. And He’s the only one who’ll enable us to meet all the challenges,” he said.
Despite the aforementioned challenges, Archbishop Coleridge remains positive, as history would tell: “great surges of Gospel energy have come when things looked grim”.
“The great opportunity we have is to open ourselves to the power of God in our weakness and allow God to build a new and unexpected future for us. That will mean a humbler, simpler and more joyful Church. It will also mean a more missionary Church.”
The newly-elected ACBC President has been a great supporter of the Plenary Council 2020 – which he said will be “a time to discern, decide and act”.
“The Plenary Council was a decision of the Bishops, but I’m convinced it is the work of the Holy Spirit, who alone can renew us,” he said.
“If it’s not the Spirit’s work, then it will be merely administrative or political, and there’s no renewal there. The Spirit is asking us to listen in deeper ways – to God and to each other.”
In light of the child sexual abuse tragedy, the Archbishop said the Church must continue on its path of working to ensure that it is genuinely safe and caring, so that trust is rebuilt.
“We also need to ask what it was in Church culture that allowed abuse to happen and to be so grossly mishandled by Church leaders and to change the culture wherever necessary. Much has already been done, but there’s a long journey ahead of us. The bishops know that and are determined to do whatever the Gospel requires.”
Archbishop Coleridge paid homage to Pope Francis, who he said has been fundamental in helping Catholics to hear the call of the Gospel anew.
“He’s calling the whole Church to be more Christ-like. That’s why his letter Evangelii Gaudium is, I think, a providential charter into the future. I’ll have it close at hand for as long as I’m President of the Conference.”