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Mass for first bishop of Adelaide


The 160th anniversary of the death of Bishop Francis Murphy, the first bishop of Adelaide, was commemorated in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on April 26.

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Bishop Murphy was born in Ireland in 1795, ordained a priest in 1825, arrived in Australia in 1838 and was the first bishop to be consecrated in Australia in 1844 when he was appointed to the new Diocese of Adelaide.

Bishop Murphy described his early experience of arrival in Adelaide in 1844 as being to a “mission utterly destitute of church, chapel or school”. Mass had to be celebrated in a large store house.

By 1857 Bishop Murphy reported that “12 churches and six chapels had been built in the diocese and two others are being built as well as a magnificent Cathedral”.

He was described as a “warm and compassionate man, quick to rebuke or defend, but just as quick to seek forgiveness” and his preaching “drew crowds, non-Catholics as well as Catholics”.

He died on April 16 1858, and he is buried beneath the sanctuary floor in the Cathedral. He is believed to be the only person other than Colonel William Light to be buried within the Adelaide CBD. In his homily, Archbishop Wilson described Bishop Murphy as a “generous man who came here with an openness for all the people who lived here at a time when there was much bitterness between Christian communities and much rivalry about the Catholic faith”.

“We were really blessed by the Lord to have such a man as our first bishop; he had a terrific influence on the development of the faith in this part of the world – in our community. We owe him much as we remember back 160 years and honour his death today.” Archbishop Wilson’s homily can be found at




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