THE Vatican has announced Father William Wright as the eighth bishop of Newcastle.
Pope Benedict XVI made the announcement in Rome last night, bringing an end to the episcopate of Bishop Michael Malone that had been expected for about a year.
The Vatican said in a statement that the Pope had ‘‘accepted the renunciation of pastoral authority in the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in Australia presented by Monsignor Michael John Malone’’.
Bishop-elect Wright is the parish priest of All Saints Liverpool, in western Sydney.
‘‘I’m very gratified to have been asked,’’ Father Wright, 58, said.
‘‘It’s a bit daunting, but I’m excited about the challenge of it all.’’
Father Wright is currently a member of the Archbishop’s Council of Priests and is chairman of the Sydney Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Board.
Father Wright was born in Washington DC where his Reserve Bank economist father was on secondment to the International Monetary Fund.
He attended St Aloysius College at Milsons Point before studying at St Columba’s College, Springwood, St Patrick’s College, Manly, and Sydney University after his ordination in 1977 at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney.
He has since worked in parishes in Stanmore, Manly, Mount Druitt, Canberra, Enmore-Tempe, Dulwich Hill, Bonnyrigg, Moree, Sutherland and Liverpool.
He will take up his Newcastle appointment within three months and will be ordained Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle in Sacred Heart Cathedral, as was Bishop Malone in February 1995.
Bishop Malone told the Newcastle Herald last night that he regretted his early handling of sex abuse cases involving the clergy but hoped his later actions helped victims.
‘‘For a whole raft of reasons, including sexual abuse by some clergy, the church’s credibility has suffered,’’ he said.
Bishop Malone said he had been preoccupied early on in his tenure with guarding the church’s reputation.
‘‘There was a time I was trying to protect the church from a bad reputation, and trying to reach out to victims,’’ Bishop Malone said.
‘‘I came to a decision that you can’t have a foot in both camps.’’
Bishop Malone later became one of the most outspoken critics of sexual abuse cover-ups within the church, troubling some colleagues but winning praise from victims.
The 71-year-old acknowledged he was emotionally drained, disillusioned and ready for retirement for the past year, well before the official pension age for Catholic bishops of 75.
Bishop Malone will not cease to be a pastor in retirement, and said he would like spend time in outback Australia.