Frank Little (bishop)

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The Most Reverend
Sir Frank Little
6th Archbishop of Melbourne
Installed1 July 1974
Term ended16 July 1996
PredecessorJames Knox
SuccessorGeorge Pell
Ordination3 October 1950 (Priest) in Propaganda Fide College, Rome
by Pietro Fumasoni Biondi
Consecration21 February 1973 (Bishop) in Melbourne
by James Knox
Personal details
Birth nameThomas Francis Little
Born(1925-11-30)30 November 1925
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died7 April 2008(2008-04-07) (aged 82)
BuriedSt Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne
DenominationRoman Catholic
ProfessionRoman Catholic bishop
Alma materCorpus Christi College, Melbourne;
Propaganda Fide, Rome;
Pontifical Urban University
Styles of
Sir Frank Little
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Grace
Religious styleArchbishop

Sir Thomas Francis "Frank" Little[1] KBE (30 November 1925 – 7 April 2008[2]) was an Australian bishop. He was the sixth Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne. He was appointed by Pope Paul VI on 1 July 1974 and retired in 1996; succeeded by George Pell. On retirement he was styled Archbishop Emeritus in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.[3] The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that Little had led a culture of secrecy in the Melbourne archdiocese designed to hide complaints against several priests and protect the church's reputation from scandal.[4]

Life and career[edit]

Early life and background[edit]

Little's father, Gerald Thompson Little, was a surveyor and engineer and his mother was the former Kathleen Annie McCormack. Both were from metropolitan Melbourne. Little was educated at St Columba's School, Essendon, then at St Monica's Christian Brothers College, Moonee Ponds. He completed his secondary education as a boarder at St Patrick's College, Ballarat.[5]

Early priesthood[edit]

Little commenced training for the priesthood in 1943. In that year he entered Corpus Christi College, a seminary at Werribee. Little went to Rome in 1947 to study at the Propaganda Fide College. He was ordained by Cardinal Biondi on 3 October 1950 in the chapel of the college. For the next three years he studied for a doctorate at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. He was awarded a doctorate in 1953.[5]

In 1953 Little returned to Melbourne. He was appointed assistant priest to Carlton, then appointed assistant at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1955. From 1956 until 1959 he worked as secretary to the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Carboni, in Sydney.[5] In 1959, Little again returned to Melbourne as assistant priest at St Patrick's Cathedral. In 1965 he became the dean of the cathedral, and then in 1971 parish priest of St Ambrose's Brunswick.

During those years he was involved in pastoral work with the large number of migrants finding a new home in Australia, especially within the Italian community. He was also a lecturer in the provincial seminary, a member of the Diocesan Ecumenical Affairs Commission, a member and Chair of Victorian Action for World Development, a member of the organising committee for the Melbourne Eucharistic Congress, and Episcopal Vicar for the apostolate of the laity.


He was consecrated a bishop on 21 February 1973 by Cardinal James Knox during the International Eucharistic Congress then being held in Melbourne. In 1973 he was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne and Titular Bishop of Temuniana. He lived in Moonee Ponds as both a parish priest and a regional bishop with pastoral responsibility for the north-western region of Melbourne. In 1974 he succeeded Knox as Archbishop of Melbourne.

In 1983 he attended the Synod of Bishops in Rome, themed "Reconciliation". During his time as Archbishop of Melbourne his support of the education and renewal for the Catholic community expressed itself in such initiatives as the publication of the religious education guidelines, the launch of the RENEW program, the establishment of deaneries, and the "Tomorrow's Church" process. Little was committed to the continuing formation of laity and priests. He was known in Melbourne for his support for the Essendon Football Club. In July 1996 his resignation from the office of archbishop, for reasons of health, was accepted by the Pope.[5]

In the 1977 Silver Jubilee honours he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).[6] On 10 April 1992 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology by the Melbourne College of Divinity, particularly for his work for ecumenism and theological education in the archdiocese.[5]

In 2002 there were media reports that Little failed to address issues associated with the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Melbourne, specifically relating to Father Wilfred "Billy" Baker, of Gladstone Park, Eltham and North Richmond parishes.[7]

In 2013, the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into abuse of children was told by Archbishop Denis Hart that Little had covered up paedophile priests and moved them to other parishes where they would abuse again.[8]

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concluded that Little had “dismissed or ignored serious allegations of child sexual abuse against a number of priests” between 1974 and 1996.[9]

St Patrick's College in Ballarat has stated that it would remove Little's name from a building which had been named in his honour and revoke his status as an inducted "Legend of the College".[10]


Little died in April 2008 and was buried in the crypt of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Commonly known as "Sir Frank" as in this story here Hannan, Ewin (9 April 2008). "Archbishop Frank Little dies at 82". The Australian. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  2. ^ Brolly 2008 and Zwartz 2008 both say Little died on 7 April. Note that a death notice placed in The Age newspaper by "the Bishops, Priests and people of the Archdiocese of Melbourne" claimed that Little "died peacefully at home on the [morning of] 8 April 2008" (The Age, 10 April 2008, page 13).
  3. ^ "Archbishop Thomas Francis Little". The Catholic Hierarchy. 19 February 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  4. ^ Cunningham, Melissa (2017-12-06). "Little legacy lost after school wipes former archbishop's name from school building". The Age. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  5. ^ a b c d e Brolly, Mark (10 April 2008). "Gentle leader of flock in changing era" (obituary). The Age. p. 14. Retrieved 14 November 2009.
  6. ^ "No. 47234". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1977. p. 7104.
  7. ^ Ellingsen, Peter (4 May 2002). "Speak no evil". The Age. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  8. ^ Schwartz, Barney (27 May 2013). "The man in the big chair". The Age. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  9. ^ Wrigley, Brendan (2017-12-05). "Royal Commission slams former Ballarat Bishop in Melbourne report". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  10. ^ Cunningham, Melissa (2017-12-06). "Little legacy lost after St Pat's wipes former archbishop's name". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  11. ^ Zwartz, Barney (9 April 2008). "Mild-mannered Archbishop Little dead at 82". The Age. p. 4. Retrieved 14 November 2009.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
James Knox
Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne
Succeeded by
George Pell