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John Bathersby

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The Most Reverend

John Bathersby
Roman Catholic archbishop
DioceseArchdiocese of Brisbane
Installed3 December 1991
Term ended14 November 2011
PredecessorFrancis Roberts Rush
SuccessorMark Coleridge
Ordination30 June 1961 (Priest) in
Stanthorpe, Queensland
Consecration20 March 1986 (Bishop) in
Personal details
John Alexius Bathersby

(1936-07-26)26 July 1936
Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia
Died9 March 2020(2020-03-09) (aged 83)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
ParentsJohn Thomas and Grace Maud (née Conquest) Bathersby
OccupationRoman Catholic bishop
Alma materPius XII Seminary, Banyo
Gregorian University, Rome
Terasianum University
Styles of
John Bathersby
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleYour Grace
Religious styleEmeritus Archbishop
Posthumous stylenot applicable

John Alexius Bathersby (26 July 1936 – 9 March 2020) was an Australian bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the sixth archbishop of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, serving from 1991 until his retirement in 2011. Bathersby was conferred with the title Emeritus Archbishop of Brisbane.

Early years[edit]

Bathersby was born in Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia. The son of John Thomas and Grace Maud (née Conquest) Bathersby, John Alexius had an older sister, Carmel, a younger brother, Michael, and two younger sisters, Suzanne and Anne. He received his primary schooling at St Joseph's, Stanthorpe (1941–50) and his secondary schooling as a boarder at Nudgee College in Brisbane (1951–54).[1] From school he entered the Pius XII Provincial Seminary, Banyo, where he began his training for the priesthood and, on completion of those studies (1955–61), he was ordained a priest in his home parish of Stanthorpe by Bishop William Brennan on 30 June 1961.[2]

His first seven years as a priest were spent as an assistant and administrator at Goondiwindi before being sent to Rome in 1969 for further studies where he completed a licentiate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a diploma in spirituality at the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum. In 1972 he was appointed to the staff of Pius XII Seminary in Brisbane where he served as spiritual director for seven years before returning to Rome for a doctorate in theology and spirituality in 1979. He returned to the seminary before being appointed Bishop of Cairns in 1986.[2]

Bishop of Cairns and Archbishop of Brisbane[edit]

On 20 March 1986, Bathersby was consecrated Bishop of Cairns by Archbishop Francis Rush, whom he would succeed in the Archdiocese of Brisbane on 3 December 1991, and installed as the sixth Bishop (and fifth Archbishop) of Brisbane on 30 January 1992.[3]

Bathersby was a member of the International Catholic-Methodist Dialogue from 1989 to 1995 and a member of the executive of the Confederation of Bishops' Conferences of Oceania from 1991 to May 1994. He was co-chairman of the Australian Catholic–Uniting Church Dialogue. From July 1997 he served as President of the National Council of Churches in Australia until July 2000. In January 2001, Pope John Paul II appointed Bathersby as co-chair of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Working Group (IARCCUM). He chaired the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Commission for Mission and Faith Formation, and was a member of the Bishops' Permanent Committee.[2]

In 2008, St. Mary's Catholic Church, South Brisbane was the subject of controversy following complaints that long-serving parish priest Peter Kennedy was not observing standard Roman Catholic teachings and practices. However Kennedy's services were extremely popular attracting a very large congregation, many of whom felt otherwise alienated from the Catholic Church. Despite numerous attempts by Bathersby to persuade Kennedy to return to a more standard liturgy, Kennedy refused. Bathersby eventually removed Kennedy as the parish priest. Many of Kennedy's parishioners left the church with him to continue holding services as St Mary's Community in Exile at the Trades and Labour Council building on Peel Street (200m away from St Mary's Catholic Church).[4]

Upon turning 75 years old, in July 2011, Bathersby sought the pontiff's consent to retire.[5] The Bishop of Lismore, Geoffrey Jarrett, was appointed administrator for the Brisbane archdiocese in November 2011[6][7] and, in April 2012, Mark Coleridge was appointed as the seventh archbishop.[8]

Bathersby died on 9 March 2020 at Brisbane's Wesley Hospital from a stroke.[9][10]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2011, a feature documentary was made about Kennedy and the exiled community and their conflict with the Catholic Church, entitled The Trouble with St Mary's.[11][12]

In 2016, the play St Mary's in Exile was written by David Burton about the events that led to Bathersby's decision to remove Father Peter Kennedy as parish priest from St Mary's Catholic Church, South Brisbane in 2009. It was performed in August–September 2016 as part of the Brisbane Festival at the Queensland Theatre Company's Bille Brown Theatre, approximately 250m from both St Mary's and St Mary's in Exile. Actor Josh McWilliam played the role of Bathersby.[13]


  1. ^ Hintz, Paddy (19 December 2011). "Retiring Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby farewelled at Brisbane's St Stephen's Cathedral". The Courier Mail. News Corp. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "About Archbishop John Bathersby". Bishops. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  3. ^ "Archbishop John Alexius Bathersby". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 16 October 2011. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  4. ^ Webb, Val (2010). Stepping Out with the Sacred: Human Attempts to Engage the Divine. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 144. ISBN 9781441196422. Archived from the original on 12 April 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  5. ^ Kidd, Rob (26 July 2011). "Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby seeks Pontiff's permission to step down". The Courier-Mail. Australia. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  6. ^ "End of an era". The Catholic Leader. Australia. 20 November 2011. Archived from the original on 11 December 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  7. ^ Elsworth, Sophie (16 November 2011). "Stand-in Catholic Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett ready for the job". The Courier-Mail. Australia. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  8. ^ "Press release". Catholic.ord.au. www.catholic.org.au. Archived from the original on 4 May 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  9. ^ Higgins, Joe (9 March 2020). "Brisbane Archdiocese's former shepherd Archbishop John Bathersby has died aged 83". The Catholic Leader.
  10. ^ "Former Brisbane archbishop John Bathersby dies". brisbanetimes.com.au. 9 March 2020.
  11. ^ "The Trouble with St Marys". 1 June 2011. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  12. ^ "The Trouble with St Mary's (2011)". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  13. ^ "St Mary's In Exile". Queensland Theatre Company. Archived from the original on 5 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by 8th Catholic Bishop of Cairns
Succeeded by
Preceded by 6th Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane
Succeeded by