Roman Catholic Diocese of Cairns

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cairns is a Latin Rite suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, erected initially as a vicariate apostolic in 1877 and elevated to a diocese in 1941, covering the far north region of Queensland, Australia.[1]

Diocese of Cairns

Dioecesis Cairnensis
Country Australia
TerritoryFar North region of Queensland
Ecclesiastical provinceBrisbane
Coordinates16°55′00″S 145°46′21″E / 16.91667°S 145.77250°E / -16.91667; 145.77250
Area377,000 km2 (146,000 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2006)
Increase 235,396
Increase 59,912 (Decrease 25.5%%)
ParishesSteady 24
DenominationRoman Catholic
RiteLatin Rite
Established1877 as Vicariate Apostolic of Queensland;
10 May 1887 as Vicariate Apostolic of Cooktown;
8 July 1941 as Diocese of Cairns
CathedralSt Monica's Cathedral, Cairns
Current leadership
BishopSede Vacante (vacant)
Roman Catholic Diocese of Cairns

St Monica's Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Cairns, currently James Foley.


Following the discovery of gold near Cooktown in 1872 and the establishment and growth of sugar production during the 1870s, the Bishop of Brisbane, James Quinn, visited Cooktown in 1874. The first church was opened a year later.[2] Quinn had earlier been petitioning the Roman Curia to create a vicariate in north Queensland to minister to Catholics in the region and to evangelise the Aborigines, with the Vicariate Apostolic of Queensland officially created in 1877. An initial attempt to install Italian priests from the Pontifical Seminary of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul of Rome was a failure; mainly due to cultural and language issues with both the indigenous and predominately Irish lay population.[2] Quinn, from Ireland, appointed one of his fellow countryman, John Cani as the first Pro-Vicar who served up until Quinn's death in 1882 when Cani returned to Brisbane before being appointed as the first Bishop of Rockhampton. A short term under Monsignor Paul Fortini followed, marked by his clash with the laity in Herberton which he then placed under interdict in 1883; this meant that sacraments could not be celebrated in that town. Fortini was recalled to Rome.[2]

A stable period followed under the pastoral care of the Augustinians. The number of parishioners grew from approximately 2,000 (in 1884) to about 4,000 (in the 1890s); and to approximately 10,000 Catholics (by 1914) spread across eight church districts with 13 priests.[3] The growth of pastoral industries and mining in the interwar years led to the expansion of the Vicariate west across the Atherton Tablelands and the creation of an additional nine parishes; and eventual establishment as a suffragan diocese in 1941.[3]


The following individuals have been elected as Roman Catholic Bishop of Cairns, or any of its precursor titles:[4]

Order Name Title Date enthroned Reign ended Term of office Reason for term end
1 John Cani Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Queensland 30 January 1877[2] 3 January 1882 4 years, 338 days Elevated to Bishop of Rockhampton
2 Paul Fortini Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Queensland 12 February 1882 15 January 1884 1 year, 337 days Recalled[2] to Rome and appointed Vicar Apostolic Emeritus of Queensland
3 John Hutchinson, OSA Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Queensland 15 January 1884 13 May 1887 3 years, 118 days Elevated to Vicar Apostolic of Cooktown
Vicar Apostolic of Cooktown 13 May 1887 28 October 1897 10 years, 168 days Died in office
4 James Murray, OSA † Vicar Apostolic of Cooktown 28 March 1898 13 February 1914 15 years, 322 days Died in office
5 John Heavey, OSA † Vicar Apostolic of Cooktown 3 May 1914 14 July 1941 27 years, 72 days Elevated to Bishop of Cairns
Bishop of Cairns 14 July 1941 12 June 1948 6 years, 334 days Died in office
6 Thomas Cahill Bishop of Cairns 11 November 1948 13 April 1967 18 years, 153 days Elevated to Archbishop of Canberra (and Goulburn)
7 John Torpie Bishop of Cairns 14 September 1967 5 August 1985 17 years, 325 days Retired and appointed Bishop Emeritus of Cairns
8 John Bathersby Bishop of Cairns 17 January 1986 3 December 1991 5 years, 320 days Elevated to Archbishop of Brisbane
9 James Foley Bishop of Cairns 16 July 1992 2020 27 years, 260 days Retired and Appointed Bishop Emeritus


The diocese is divided into three separate deaneries that administer individual parishes:[5]

  1. The Northern deanery is formed of the following parishes Cairns (St Monica's Cathedral), Edmonton (St Therese's in Bentley Park), Earlville (Our Lady Help of Christians), Gordonvale (St Michael), West Cairns (St Francis Xavier's in Manunda), Mossman & Port Douglas (St Augustine's in Mossman, and St Mary's in Port Douglas), North Cairns (Mother of Good Counsel), Northern Beaches (Holy Cross in Trinity Park, Sacred Heart in Freshwater, and St Augustine's in Stratford), and Parramatta Park (St Joseph's).
  2. The Southern deanery is based on the Cassowary Coast with parishes at Babinda (St Rita's), Innisfail (Mother of Good Counsel), Mourilyan & South Johnstone (Christ the King at Mourilyan, and St Rita's at South Johnstone), Silkwood (St John's), and Tully (St Clare of Montefalco in Tully, Our Lady Star of the Sea in Cardwell, and Holy Spirit at Wongaling Beach).
  3. The Western deanery extends west of the Tablelands with parishes: Atherton (St Joseph), Cooktown (St Mary), Dimbulah (St Anthony), Georgetown (St Patrick), Gulf Savannah (Our Lady Help of Christians), Herberton (St Patrick), Malanda (St James), Mareeba (St Thomas of Villanova in Mareeba, and St Christopher's in Kuranda), Millaa Millaa (St Rita), Ravenshoe (St Teresa of the Child Jesus in Ravenshoe, and Holy Rosary at Mount Garnet), Weipa (St Joseph), and Thursday Island (including Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church on Thursday Island, St Joseph's on Hammond Island, Holy Family on Horn Island, and St Stephen at Bamaga).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ University, Find & Connect Web Resource Project, The University of Melbourne and Australian Catholic. "Catholic Diocese of Cairns - Organisation - Find & Connect - Queensland". Archived from the original on 2 May 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dunn, Geoffrey (Rev) (17 February 2010). "The Journey to 1941". Diocese History. Catholic Diocese of Cairns: 1. Archived from the original on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b Dunn, Geoffrey (Rev) (17 February 2010). "The Journey to 1941". Diocese History. Catholic Diocese of Cairns: 2. Archived from the original on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  4. ^ "Diocese of Cairns". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. 21 May 2011. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  5. ^ "Parish information". Diocese of Cairns. 4 July 2011. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.

External linksEdit