Norman Thomas Gilroy

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

Sir Norman Thomas Gilroy KBE (22 January 1896 – 21 October 1977) was an Australian bishop. 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 left Australia in February 1915 and served in the Gallipoli campaign of World War I in 1915 as a naval wireless operator on the Hessen off Gallipoli and Imbros.[1][2]

After his return to Australia in August 1915,[2] 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 the Urban 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 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 Pirie, 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 Argyranthemum. On the death of Archbishop Michael Kelly, Gilroy succeeded to the Archdiocese of Sydney on 18 March 1940.

Gilroy was created a cardinal on 18 February 1946, and was assigned the title of becoming cardinal-priest of Santi Quattro Coronati, becoming the first Australian-born member of the College of Cardinals.

Gilroy was knighted in 1969. He was the first Roman Catholic cardinal to receive a knighthood since the English Reformation.[3] He was named Australian of the Year in 1970.[4] He resigned as Archbishop of Sydney in July 1971 and died in Sydney in 1977, aged 81. He was succeeded by James Darcy Freeman.

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 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 religious brothers and 2992 nuns as well as lay teachers. He was unable to bring to concrete realisation 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. However, like most other Sydney Irish Roman Catholics, he had grown up as a supporter of the Australian Labor Party and was a confidant of Roman Catholic Labor Premier of New South Wales Joseph Cahill. He firmly opposed Santamaria's activities and banned the distribution of his movement's 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 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.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Boland, T. P. "Gilroy, Sir Norman Thomas (1896–1977)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  2. 1 2 "Norman Thomas Gilroy war diaries, February 2-October 7, 1915". Catalogue. State Library of NSW. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  3. "Australian of the Year 1970". National Australia Day Committee. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  4. Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Michael Kelly
5th Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
Succeeded by
James Darcy Freeman
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.