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Norman Thomas Gilroy

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Styles of
Norman Gilroy
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Sydney

His Eminence Sir Norman Thomas Gilroy KBE (22 January 1896 – 21 October 1977) was an Australian clergyman. He was the first Australian-born Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.


Gilroy was born in Sydney, to working-class parents of Irish descent. Educated at the Marist Brothers' College in the Sydney suburb of Kogarah, he left school when 13 years old, to work as a messenger boy in what was then the Postmaster-General's Department. In 1914 his parents refused permission for him to enlist in the Australian Army, but he was allowed to volunteer for the transport service as a telegraphist. He served in the Gallipoli campaign of World War I in 1915.[1]

On his return to Australia, he was ordered to resume his work as a telegraphist for the postal service. He expressed an interest in becoming a priest and in 1917 began his studies at St Columba's, Springwood, New South Wales in 1917, and continued them from 1919 at Propaganda Fide College in Rome. He was ordained a priest on 24 December 1923 at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome, and received his doctorate in divinity in Rome the following year.

Returning to Australia in 1924, Gilroy was appointed to the staff of the staff of the Apostolic Delegation in Sydney, which in that year received as its new head Archbishop Bartolomeo Cattaneo, who favoured the appointment of Australian-born priests as bishops in Australia. After six years in this post, Gilroy returned to Lismore, New South Wales, becoming Chancellor and Secretary of the Bishop.[1]

In 1934 he was appointed Bishop of Port Augusta, South Australia, gaining an experience in dealing with pastoral problems that was to serve him well in his later position.[1]

In 1937 he became Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney and Titular Archbishop of Cypsela. On the death of Archbishop Michael Kelly, Gilroy succeeded to the Archdiocese of Sydney on on 18 March 1940.

Gilroy was created Cardinal on 18 February 1946, becoming the first Australian-born member of the College of Cardinals, with the titular church of the Santi Quattro Coronati.

Gilroy was knighted in 1969. He was the first Roman Catholic Cardinal to receive a knighthood since the Protestant Reformation. He resigned as Archbishop of Sydney in July 1971, and died in Sydney in 1977, aged 81. He was succeeded by James Darcy Freeman.

Work as Archbishop of Sydney

Gilroy enforced strict discipline in accordance with the Code of Canon Law on his clergy, who had grown lax under the elderly Michael Kelly. In so doing, he acquired a reputation of an "iron man". He always maintained his exacting standards, but showed compassion for those who failed to meet them.[1]

Much of his energy was devoted to providing churches and schools for his flock. By 1971 he had 366 schools with 115,704 pupils, staffed by 751 Brothers and 2992 nuns, as well as lay teachers. He was unable to bring to concrete realization his plan to establish a Catholic university, but was to some extent successful in his project to found a faculty of theology at Manly, New South Wales.[1]

The 1954 split of the Australian Labor Party saw a marked difference of opinion between Gilroy and Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne, who backed B.A. Santamaria's "Movement" (the episcopally sponsored Catholic Social Studies Movement). Gilroy avoided direct political comment and believed that the church should not become involved in politics. But like most Sydney Irish Roman Catholics, he had grown up as a supporter of the Australian Labor Party, and was a confidant of Roman Catholic Labor Premiers of New South Wales Joseph Cahill. He firmly opposed Santamaria's activities and banned the distribution of Movement literature in Sydney churches. As a result of the close relationship between Gilroy and Cahill, there was no split in the New South Wales Labor Party.


Gilroy College, a Year 7-12 High School in North Western Sydney named after him opened in 1980. The College took Cardinal Gilroy's personal motto "Christ is my light" as the official school motto. Gilroy College celebrated its 25th anniversary as a school community in 2004.


External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Michael Kelly
5th Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
Succeeded by
James Darcy Freeman
Preceded by
Richard Gardiner Casey
Australian of the Year Award
Succeeded by
Evonne Goolagong
no:Norman Thomas Gilroyfi:Norman Thomas Gilroy

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