13 May, 2020

A Last Letter

Archbishop John Bede Polding
a photograph of the early 1870s.
On 7th March 1877, ailing on his death bed at the old Sacred Heart Presbytery, Darlinghurst, Archbishop Polding dictated a letter to Pope Pius IX.  He was well enough to be able to sign the letter, the text of which follows.

Most Holy Father,

After 42 years' episcopal ministry in the Australian missions, I have come to the end of my life able to say to Your Holiness : "I have finished my course : I have kept the faith."

Most Holy Father, exhausted as I am by years and labours, it but remains for me to go down into the grave and to expect from the mercy of the Lord forgiveness of my faults and life eternal, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.  To obtain this with greater ease and security, I humbly devote myself to our Holy Religion which, at my departure hence, will accompany me with those spiritual consolations that God can grant to His chosen ones.  In the meantime, I request Your Holiness to give me that Special Blessing.

I remain for the rest of my life,

Your most humble and devoted servant


Archbishop of Sydney.

On 16th March, the old Archbishop passed from this life to his Eternal Reward.  It is wonderful and moving to read this letter, indicating so clearly the piety and spiritual priorities of our pioneering Australian bishop.


Pope Pius IX
A rare photograph of an informal gathering in Rome around 1870.


This letter was quoted in an article written by the late Sister Mary Xavier Compton, S.G.S., which appeared in the Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society vol. 8, part 1 (1985). 

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