This morning, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, paid tribute to outgoing Deputy Premier, Mr James Merlino, who has announced his retirement.

‘James Merlino has been a great friend and supporter of Catholic schools during his time as Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, and we wish him a happy and vibrant future after the next election,’ the Archbishop said.

‘I am personally thankful for the time James gave to me and the Catholic community, for his open door and generous spirit, his professionalism and wise leadership.

‘James has shown an unwavering commitment to the safety, protection and flourishing of all Victorian students, and it’s been a privilege to offer my collaboration and encouragement in that objective.

‘Catholics, like all people of faith in Victoria, want to live their faith freely and respectfully, and James has given witness to the commitment of Christians and others to the common good, of giving your all for the sake of others.

‘All of us in the Catholic community in Melbourne offer our prayers and best wishes for James, Meagan, Sophie, Emma and Josh.’

Earlier, in his farewell statement to Parliament, Mr Merlino expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Comensoli and to Catholic schools, as well as to the independent school sector and the Jewish and Muslim communities.

‘To our Catholic and independent school sectors, thank you for the strong partnership and engagement we have enjoyed, particularly Stephen Elder and Jim Miles at the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria and Michelle Green at Independent Schools Victoria,' Mr Merlino said.

‘To Archbishop Comensoli, thank you for your kindness and advice. And I have been blessed to meet, form friendships and share experiences with our vibrant Jewish and Muslim communities.’