Bishop William (Bill) Wright died on Saturday 13 November, succumbing to lung cancer at the age of 69, the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has confirmed.
Bishop Bill announced his resignation due to ill health in September this year. At the time, the Bishop had written to members of his Diocese explaining that 'despite very good care and treatment, the condition of my lungs has not improved and, we now know, is an illness from which I will not recover.'
Despite this, the speed of Bishop Bill’s death was unexpected.
Acknowledging his death, Rev Andrew Doohan, Vicar General of the Diocese, said: 'Bishop Bill was a warm, considered and deeply faithful man, he was always dedicated to the people of the Diocese and I know he served as an inspiration, not only for many of our clergy but also those in the places he served. He will be greatly missed.'
Bishop Bill was ordained eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle on 15 June 2011 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton. He served in a number of roles including Co-Chair of the National Committee for Professional Standards and was a member of the Truth Justice and Healing Council throughout its existence (2013-18). He was a member of the Bishops' Commission for Church Ministry and the Bishops Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Relations and was a member of the Bishops' Commission for Evangelisation Laity and Ministry and the Bishops' Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service. He was Chair of the Bishops' Commission for Professional Standards and Safeguarding.
'Bishop Bill was an active and respected member of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. He made major contributions to the Church and the wider communities in which he ministered,' the Vicar General said.
Leading the Diocese during a period when it faced the terrible truths of historic child sexual abuse that occurred within the Diocese and the failures of some of its past leaders to protect children from abuse, Bishop Bill was recognised as an important figure in supporting survivors and introducing reforms to help the Catholic Church respond to the issue of child sexual abuse.
'Bishop Bill recognised the pain of the victims and their families,' said Fr Andrew. 'He acknowledged this and made an abiding commitment to promote the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults. Bishop Bill’s work to support survivors is part of his legacy.'
Details of Bishop Bill’s funeral have not yet been finalised.
Melbourne Catholic02 October 2023
Justin McLellan (CNS)02 October 2023