James Knox

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James Knox

President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
Installed4 August 1981[1]
Term ended26 June 1983[1]
PredecessorOpilio Rossi
SuccessorEdouard Gagnon
Other post(s)5th Archbishop of Melbourne (1967–1974);
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (1974–1983)
Ordination22 December 1941[1]
by Pietro Fumasoni Biondi
Consecration8 November 1953[1]
by Celso Benigno Luigi Costantini
Created cardinal5 March 1973[1]
by Pope Paul VI
RankSanta Maria in Vallicella
Personal details
James Robert Knox

(1914-05-02)2 May 1914
Died26 June 1983(1983-06-26) (aged 69)
Rome, Italy
BuriedSt Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne
DenominationRoman Catholic
Alma materPontifical Urbanian Athenaeum
MottoSicut dilexi vos
Styles of
James Knox
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeMelitene (titular see)

James Robert Knox GCC (2 March 1914 – 26 June 1983) was an Australian prelate of the Catholic Church. After years as a Vatican diplomat, he served as Archbishop of Melbourne from 1967 to 1974, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 1974 to 1981, and president of the Pontifical Council for the Family from 1981 until his death in 1983. Created a cardinal in 1973, he was the first Australian to serve in the Roman Curia.[2]

Early years[edit]

Knox was born in Bayswater, Western Australia, the second of three sons of Irish-born parents John and Emily (née Walsh) Knox.[3] His father was a storekeeper and native of Kilkenny, and his mother died when Knox was still a child.[4] He worked as a tailor's apprentice[5] before applying to the Archdiocese of Perth to study for the priesthood. However, he was rejected because the archdiocese did not have a seminary at the time and relied on recruiting priests from Ireland.[4] He was instead accepted at the Benedictine abbey in New Norcia, completing his secondary education at St Ildephonsus' College and entering the abbey's seminary in March 1936.

In September that year, Knox was transferred to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, an institution belonging to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to train missionaries.[3] He was ordained a priest on 22 December 1941 by Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni Biondi, the congregation's prefect.[1] Unable to return to Australia during World War II,[5] he remained in Rome and served as chaplain and vice-rector at the Pontifical Urban University. He also pursued his postgraduate studies, earning doctorates in theology (1944) and canon law (1949).

Knox joined the Vatican diplomatic corps a staff member of the Secretariat of State in 1948, serving under Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI).[5] He also worked in the English section of Vatican Radio.[2] In 1950, he was sent to Tokyo as secretary to then-Archbishop Maximilian von Fürstenberg, the newly appointed Apostolic Delegate in Japan. At the same time, he was raised to the rank of privy chamberlain with the title of monsignor.[6]


On 20 July 1953, Knox was appointed Apostolic Delegate to British Africa and titular archbishop of Melitene by Pope Pius XII.[1] He received his episcopal consecration on the following 8 November in Rome from Cardinal Celso Costantini, with Archbishops Filippo Bernardini and Antonio Samorè serving as co-consecrators.[6] During his four years stationed in Mombasa, he worked to increase the number of native Africans among the local Catholic clergy.[4]

Following the death of Archbishop Martin Lucas, Knox was transferred to New Delhi and named Apostolic Internuncio to India on 14 February 1957.[6] He simultaneously served as the Vatican's top diplomat to Myanmar and Sri Lanka. During his tenure, he oversaw a significant expansion of the Catholic Church in India, including the creation of many new dioceses and the development of religious communities like the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa.[4] He participated in the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965, and helped organize Pope Paul VI's visit to India in December 1964.

On 13 April 1967, Knox was appointed to succeed Justin Simonds as the fifth Archbishop of Melbourne, despite the fact he had not lived in Australia for 30 years and had no direct pastoral experience.[3] Implementing the decrees of the Second Vatican Council was the driving force of his years in Melbourne. In 1970 he approved the extension of St Patrick's Cathedral's sanctuary to provide the space required for the reformed liturgical rites. The new sanctuary worked admirably for the many ceremonies of the 40th International Eucharistic Congress held in Melbourne in February 1973. Knox reorganised the structure of the archdiocese, establishing four regions headed by auxiliary bishops, the creation of 12 archdiocesan departments headed by episcopal vicars, as well as the establishment of a Senate of Priests and other advisory bodies. During his episcopacy as archbishop, Knox was also instrumental in the creation of the Melbourne College of Divinity and later, some of the constituent parts which became the Australian Catholic University.[3][7]


Knox was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Vallicella by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of 5 March 1973.[1] Less than a year later, on 25 January 1974, he was called to Rome to serve as prefect of two congregations, Discipline of the Sacraments and Divine Worship. These were merged into one body, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in August 1975. As head of the Vatican office with liturgical oversight, Knox became the first Australian to serve in the Roman Curia.[2]

Knox was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, respectively. After playing a major role in the 1980 bishops synod on the modern Christian family,[2] he was appointed the first president of the reconstituted Pontifical Council for the Family on 4 August 1981, replacing the Committee for the Family.[1] His health began to decline the following year, and in May 1983 he suffered a stroke and collapsed during a meeting at the Vatican.[5] He laid in coma for two weeks before his death on 26 June at Gemelli Hospital, aged 69. He was buried on 6 July in the crypt of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.[6]

A 1974 portrait of Knox by Melbourne artist Paul Fitzgerald is held by the cathedral.[3]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "James Robert Cardinal Knox". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 8 April 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Australian Cardinal James Robert Knox". United Press International. 26 June 1983.
  3. ^ a b c d e Waters, Ian B. "Knox, James Robert (1914–1983)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "KNOX, JAMES ROBERT". Encyclopedia.com.
  5. ^ a b c d "JAMES ROBERT KNOX; AUSTRALIAN CARDINAL WAS VATICAN ENVOY". New York Times. 27 June 1983.
  6. ^ a b c d "KNOX, James Robert". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.
  7. ^ Pell, Cardinal George (August 2004). "Catholic education: triumph over adversity". AD2000. 17 (7): 10. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by 5th Archbishop of Melbourne
13 April 1967 – 1 July 1974
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal–Priest of Santa Maria in Vallicella
5 March 1973 – 26 June 1983
Succeeded by
Preceded by Apostolic Internuncio to India
14 Feb 1957 – 13 Apr 1967
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Antonio Samoré
(as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments)
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum

1 August 1975 – 4 August 1981
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Opilio Rossi
(as President of the Pontifical Committee for the Family)
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
4 August 1981 – 26 June 1983
Succeeded by