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Bishop Mark Edwards will become the sixth Bishop of Wagga Wagga.(Supplied: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference)

Pope Francis names Bishop Mark Edwards as new Bishop of the Diocese of Wagga Wagga

Bishop Mark Edwards OMI is an alumnus of the University of Divinity, and a lecturer at Catholic Theological College. 

This article is reposted from ABC Riverina, by Moyra Shields.

 

The Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has been named the new head of the Catholic Diocese of Wagga Wagga – a position that has been vacant since 2016.

Bishop Gerard Hanna retired early in September 2016 due to ill health, soon after he told the child sexual abuse Royal Commission about a priest in Tamworth he told to keep away from children.

Two years later Australia’s former ambassador to the Vatican, the late Tim Fischer, described the ongoing vacancy as a disgrace and linked it to a failure to deal with sexual abuse by the clergy.

Pope Francis last night appointed 60-year-old Bishop Mark Edwards the sixth bishop of Wagga Wagga, a diocese that stretches from Griffith to Tocumwal and Albury to Tumbarumba.

Bishop Edwards has paid tribute to Bishop Gerard Hanna for his leadership.

“Pope Francis has asked me to be the bishop of Wagga Wagga Diocese and I want to commence our friendship and relationship,” Bishop Edwards said.

“I thank you all for your perseverance, your patience and your good will, which have enabled the Diocese to function so well over these last three-and-a-half years.

“I have much to learn.

“I come humbly, with deep interest and love.”

Bishop Edwards’ ministry in Melbourne has been largely in secondary school and seminary education, but he also has a Bachelors’ Degree in Science and a Doctorate in Philosophy.

A wait to celebrate

He has been quick to thank local administrators Father Kevin O’Reilly and Monsignor Doug George as well as Archbishop Christopher Prowse – the Apostolic Administrator who will continue running the diocese until the formal installation occurs.

There is no date for the ceremony as yet.

In a letter to the Diocese, Bishop Edwards thanked people for their perseverance and said it would be a quiet beginning after a long wait, due to the pandemic restrictions now in place.

“Perhaps later we will be able to have a larger formal gathering to celebrate this moment,” he said.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge said in a statement, it was “a joy to welcome the appointment, especially after such a long wait”.

New Bishop to face challenges

After three-and-a-half years without a local leader, the news has been met with relief after complaints across the region that churchgoers felt neglected.

Concerned Catholics of Wagga Wagga spokesman John Goonan said the group was very pleased with the appointment.

“Bishop Mark’s secondary school experience as teacher and principal, along with his time working at St Mary’s Seminary in Mulgrave and lecturing at Catholic Theological College should help him with many of the challenges that lie ahead of him in our Diocese,” Mr Goonan said.

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