Independence for convict colony Catholics in Australia

Australia’s first Catholic Archbishop Bede Polding won independence for convict colony Catholics
St Mary’s Catholic Chapel, Sydney, July, 1834 by Amelia C. Rusden.

By Troy Lennon, History editor, The Daily Telegraph

IT must have seemed unusual for prelates in Rome to hear a Liverpudlian accent coming from a fellow priest. But Bishop Bede Polding was no ordinary priest.

For several years Polding had been the highest-ranking Catholic prelate in Sydney. He was in Rome to discuss with Pope Gregory XVI the spiritual needs of his flock, but specifically that Australia was still technically under the Archbishop of Mauritius.

The pope was impressed with Polding and his missionary zeal. And on April 5, 1842, 175 years ago today, Pope Gregory made Sydney a metropolitan and archiepiscopal see and Polding Australia’s first archbishop.

Born John Bede Polding in Liverpool, England on November 18, 1794, his father had Dutch ancestry and his mother came from the Brewer family, prominent Catholic recusants. His parents died when he was young, so came under the care and formidable influence of his uncle Father Bede Brewer, who presided over the English Benedictine Congregation. He was educated in Benedictine schools and in 1810 at the age of 15 he donned the habit of the Benedictine order, adopting the name Bede in honour of the English saint and historian, but also after his uncle.

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