Tasmania’s connection with the Polish pope

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Tasmania’s connection with the Polish pope

By Dr Nick Brodie

In early 1973, as a side-trip from the International Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne, a party of Polish bishops visited Tasmania. Among them was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Cracow.

Cardinal Wojtyla’s visit was announced a week in advance, and his schedule publicised in the press. There was a lunch at the Polish Club, a Mass at St Therese’s, Moonah, then another function at the Polish Hall. During the Mass, the Cardinal conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation on 17 boys and 18 girls.

Little else was reported about the visit at the time, as the Catholic Press in Tasmania essentially constituted the cover sheet of Melbourne’s Advocate, thereby creating a ‘Tasmanian Edition’. But the Cardinal got briefly mentioned in three editions, which wasn’t a bad effort for a small overnight trip.

By the time Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II, more detailed Tasmanian coverage of matters Catholic had returned in the form of the locally-produced New Standard. The new Pope’s autobiography was told in one edition of this in a lengthy leading article. But in a typically Tasmanian style, its hook was domestic. “Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian to lead the Catholic Church in more than four centuries,” the article began, “is also the first to have visited Tasmania.”