SYDNEY, Australia, MAR. 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II has named Melbourne Archbishop George Pell as new archbishop of Sydney, Australian Catholicism's most senior position.
The apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Francesco Canalini, said the outgoing archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Edward Clancy, was stepping down for reasons of age, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The cardinal reached the retirement age of 75 in 1998.
Cardinal Clancy welcomed the appointment of someone who would revitalize the faith in Sydney. "Archbishop Pell is something of a controversial figure, and controversial figures generally create a few enemies as well as friends along the way," he said, according to the Herald.
It is not known when Archbishop Pell, who turns 60 in June, will move to Sydney, according to The Age newspaper.
Archbishop Pell is known as a staunch defender of Church teaching. He once tried to have a blasphemous artwork banned when it was displayed at the National Gallery of Victoria, and he refused to serve Communion to openly homosexual Catholics, the Herald said.
He also angered feminist groups when he criticized a Federal Court decision last year allowing single women access to in-vitro fertilization programs, the paper reported.
Archbishop Pell replaced the ailing Frank Little as Melbourne's archbishop in 1996. From the outset, Archbishop Pell made it clear that he would promote strict doctrinal instruction.
"I am not in favor of any liberalizing of the teachings of the Church on faith and morals, but I am quite flexible about policies and procedures and how best we spread the message," he said at the time, according to The Age.
The moderator of the Uniting Church in Victoria, Alistair Macrae, on Sunday described Archbishop Pell as "a passionate and faithful defender, and teacher, of the current Catholic orthodoxy. ... Whether you agreed or disagreed with his position on particular issues, he was clear about what he believed and why."
Michael Kelly, spokesman for Catholic homosexual group Rainbow Sash, said Archbishop Pell's appointment would cause "a great deal of grave concern" among "moderate" and "progressive" clergy in Sydney. "What it signifies is that the Vatican is anointing him as the primate of Australia and therefore dignifying Pell's attitudes and policies," Kelly told The Age.
George Pell was born in Ballarat in 1941 and studied for the priesthood in Melbourne and at Rome's Propaganda Fide College before being ordained in 1966, the Herald said.
He was an outspoken critic of the government's policies on gambling, the deregulation of shopping hours, fighting drug abuse and providing adequate public housing, the Herald said. He is also known for his uncompromising opposition to women's ordination, premarital sex, artificial birth control, homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia.
The archbishop is also known for clerical discipline, the Herald said. One of his first initiatives in Melbourne was to introduce a stricter regime for students at the local seminary, prompting the departure of its rector and four senior teaching staff, the paper reported.
He appointed Monsignor Peter Elliott to oversee religious education in Melbourne Catholic schools, co-wrote a book for use in those schools on orthodox moral teaching with the daughter of the late Catholic firebrand Bob Santamaria, and had a book by one of his own priests banned because he said it contained heresy, the Herald said.