A Tribute to His Eminence, Cardinal Edward Bede Clancy (1923-2014)


The Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn was saddened to hear of the recent death of His Eminence, Cardinal Edward Clancy.

He was the fourth Archbishop of this Archdiocese (1979-1983).

Early life

Cardinal Edward Bede Clancy was born in Lithgow NSW on 13 December 1923, the son of John Bede Clancy, a school teacher, and Ellen Lucy Clancy (nee Edwards).

As he was reaching school age his father took a posting to the public school at Holy Camp, a locality in the Grenfell district.  It was here, in the northern area of the then Diocese of Goulburn that he commenced his schooling (This area remains within the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn).  When the family returned to western Sydney, he continued his primary schooling at St Monica’s Primary School, Richmond before proceeding to Marist Brothers College, Parramatta.

Seminary studies, ordination and pastoral service in Archdiocese of Sydney

On completing school, Edward Clancy undertook studies for the priesthood at St Columba’s College, Springwood and St Patrick’s College, Manly and was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney on 23 July 1949.  His First Mass was celebrated in his family parish church, St Monica’s, Richmond.

From 1949 till 1973, Fr Clancy pursued post graduate studies in Scripture in Rom, was appointed to several parishes and was a distinguished Professor of Scripture at St Patrick’s Seminary, Manly.

Ordination as Bishop

Appointed as auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal Freeman in the Archdiocese of Sydney on 15 November 1973, the new bishop Clancy was ordained at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney on 19 January 1974 (also ordained as Titular Bishop of Ard Carna).

Bishop Clancy’s coat of arms features two lions that derive from the crest of the Clancy family above the symbols of a circle and an open book, to represent the Host and the Open Bible (and symbolizing the Word of Scripture and the Word of the Eucharist).  His motto ‘Fides Mundum Vincit’ translates as ‘Faith Conquers the World’.

Bishop Clancy had responsibility for the then outer western region of the Sydney Archdiocese.  He resided in Blacktown where he also had the role of parish priest.

Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn

The announcement of Bishop Clancy’s appointment as Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn was made on 7 November 1978.  The new Archbishop Clancy was to succeed Archbishop Thomas Cahill who had died unexpectedly in April 1978.  He was installed as Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn on 3 January 1979 at St Christopher’s Cathedral, Canberra.

Archbishop Clancy’s term as the fourth Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn was brief – a little over 4 years.

Archbishops O’Brien and Cahill had overseen Canberra’s most rapid period of growth that had marked the opening of many new parishes, schools and churches in the national capital, and extensions to St Christopher’s Cathedral.  Archbishop Clancy’s term was more of consolidation, which saw:

  • The opening of churches in the parishes of Waramanga (1980), Holder (1982), Aranda (1982) and Narrabundah (1983).  These replaced school halls that had previously been used for Masses.
  • The opening of the St John the Apostle Primary School at Florey in 1979.

A feature of the school at Florey, at which Archbishop Clancy conferred the Blessing at the opening, is that the school crest includes the Clancy family lions from the Archbishop’s coat of arms.

Four ordinations of priests for the Archdiocese also occurred during these years (Frs Tom Thornton, Ken Heffernan and Mayne Murphy ordained by Archbishop Clancy. Fr John Parsons was ordained in Rome).

An important initiative of the Archdiocese commencing in 1979 was the participation of many parishes (especially in the Canberra region and adjoining parishes) in hosting the re-settlement of Indo-Chinese refugees: an important and very successful outreach mission for the Archdiocese.

Archbishop of Sydney

Archbishop Clancy’s appointment as seventh Archbishop of Sydney (succeeding Cardinal Freeman) was announced on 22 February 1983.  He was installed as Archbishop on 27 April 1983.

Elevated to Cardinal on 28 June 1988, he has served on the Congregation for Bishops, the Pontifical Commission for Pastoral Care of Health Workers, the Council of Synod of Bishops, the Pontifical Commission for Social Communication and the Council of Cardinals for the study of economic problems of the Holy See.

Within Australia Cardinal Clancy served as President of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference (1986-2000) and Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University (1991).  He received the civil honour of Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1984, which was raised to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1992.

Final Years

Cardinal Clancy retired as Archbishop of Sydney on 10 May 2001.

Aged 90 years, he died peacefully on the 3rd August 2014 at the Little Sisters of the Poor at Randwick, Sydney.

We will always cherish him as an outstanding Australian Catholic leader.  His integrity and concern for the marginalised will be long remembered.

May he rest in peace.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn


Funeral Arrangements:

The Mass of Christian Burial will take place at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney on Saturday, 9th August at 10.00am.  A Vigil Mass will also be celebrated at St Mary’s Cathedral the prior evening, Friday 8th August at 7.30pm.